Edson Buddle of the Los Angeles Galaxy has scored the most goals in MLS play this season, 13, even though his time in the World Cup has limited him to just 16 appearances. His closest competition, Juan Pablo Angel, has scored 12 in 21 starts, matching his total from last year, which was the lowest total in his MLS career. Buddle on the other hand, had a breakout year in 2008 with 15 goals in 27 starts but slid back down in 2009 with only five goals.
So if Andrea Canales noted in 2008 about Buddle:
Yet Buddle never seemed to progress to be a consistent threat. He could appear maddeningly lazy at times, giving up on passes that didn't fall in his striking-sweet zone. That was part of the reason that teams were always willing to give him up. Now, however, his clear advancement has put a lot of those criticisms to rest.
Then 2010 is a clear sign of his advancement, while 2009 remains a testament to his former criticized self. Can Edson Buddle reach a level of consistency which seems within his reach given the amount of talent he has? Or will he waffle between brilliance and mediocrity? Certainly Buddle has benefitted from All-Star level forwards behind him.
This season, Landon Donovan is the MLS leader in assists with 11, but in 2009 the Galaxy did not have a player in the top five, with Donovan still playing a forward role. In 2008, when Buddle was bursting out for 15 goals, David Beckham finished fifth in MLS with 10 assists, and Donovan finished with 9. Buddle finished 2009 with fewer shots in more games than in 2007, his first year with the Galaxy. In 2007 he scored 5 goals in 46 shots over 17 games with the Galaxy. In 2009 he scored 5 goals in 28 shots over 26 games, 17 in which he started.
Buddle has performed best when he's playing in front of strong play in the middle. Keep in mind that in 2007, Donovan finished second in assists with 13, and only about a quarter (13) of Buddle's shots were on goal. Also worth noting is the other similarity between 2008 and this year, Buddle only came off the bench once in 2008 and has yet to come in as a sub this year. It can be tough for a forward to get into the flow of a game coming in as a sub, and at least in Buddle's case, he's been able to perform when counted on all year, but hasn't stepped up when his struggles cause him to start a number of games in reserve. Clearly, Buddle doesn't mind the pressure of being the Galaxy's main goal scorer. From the Fox Soccer Channel post-match interview with Buddle (NY Red Bulls):
The guys just kept playing me the ball, giving me confidence.
That says it all right there. He's a man of few words, but he knows what he needs, for the guys to keep playing him the ball, and his confidence will continue to grow. Maybe that's the secret. Forwards can have such short shelf lives, but trusting in your teammates and in turn having them trust you is the best way to remain at the top of the game for a long time.
Going forward, with Donovan having a fantastic year in the midfield, strong play from Juninho, and Beckham's return in September, look for Buddle to continue on his career year. Bruce Arena has 13 reasons to keep his faith in his young forward, and Buddle should have plenty of chances to give him even more.