One man has done all the Galaxy's scoring this season.As the Los Angeles Galaxy prepare to face their nemesis from last year's championship final, Real Salt Lake, one player in particular seeks revenge and redemption for the penalty kick loss that cost the Galaxy the MLS Cup.
"It left a bitter taste," said Galaxy forward Edson Buddle of his failed effort in the penalty shootout. "I don't want to be remembered by a PK like that. It was a motivation, preparation, for this season."
Buddle's inability to notch in the shootout was overlooked by many because another Galaxy player, Landon Donovan, had a ghastly miss. It is clear, however, that Buddle is driven by having the championship slip away at the eleventh hour. That has been apparent since the season started. In three games of action (versus quality squads like New England and Chivas USA at home and Houston on the road), Buddle has scored all five of the Galaxy's goals this year.
It's been enough to give the squad a perfect record of wins in the league, as not a single goal has been registered against them.
Buddle admitted to riding a streak of confidence in his recent success.
"Sometimes for forwards, it comes easy. I'm still fighting to be the best I can be. As an athlete you tend to want to get better every game."
Scoring prolifically isn't new for Buddle, who had an impressive season in 2008, scoring 15 goals. But under the coaching of Ruud Gullit that season, the Galaxy defense leaked like a sieve, letting in the most goals of any MLS team, negating many of Buddle's strikes.
"I was scoring, but now we're winning," Buddle noted. "That's the biggest difference from then to now."
In some ways, however, Buddle didn't get much credit for his accomplishments in 2008. After all, some detractors reasoned, with service provided from David Beckham and Donovan, shouldn't any forward be effective.
Now, however, Beckham is injured, yet the Galaxy are off to their best start in many years. Buddle was quick to credit the team effort of the squad, which returned most of their roster from the previous season. "We're winning the overall war," Buddle explained.
Though he hasn't scored, Donovan is a part of that success, and as captain of the squad, he has been quick encourage Buddle's continued improvement.
"Landon says I'm running off the ball better this year," Buddle remarked. "I'll take his word for it, he's a knowledgeable guy."
Part of the reason that Buddle didn't follow up 2008 with another good scoring year in 2009, when the Galaxy as a whole improved, was that he struggled with injuries. In preseason, he tore a hip flexor, and later sustained a toe injury in an exhibition game versus AC Milan that troubled him for the rest of the season.
By the time the season ended, however, Buddle was relatively healthy, and he took advantage of that to prepare well in the offseason. While Donovan's successful loan to Everton grabbed all the attention, Buddle found that Southern California offered a competitive array of players, and more importantly, ideal weather for regular soccer games.
"In New York, where I was before (during the offseason), I couldn't train outside. I had to play indoor. I had to travel to Long Island to get good quality scrimmages. I was able to train here and work out outside. That was better for me."
Since quite a few MLS players in the league are California natives, and train together in the offseason, Buddle found himself in scrimmages that met the professional standard, and prepared him well for the start of the season.
"The difference was training with Sacha (Kljestan), training with (Chris) Seitz, some guys from Real Salt Lake," Buddle concluded. "Guys who play in the league who I had no idea were from California. It's excellent. I'll probably do that every year."
Though he appreciated the assistance that some Real Salt Lake players provided in the offseason as training teammates, Buddle wanted to continue the Galaxy's winning streak in first meeting of the two clubs this year.
"Losing in the finals, you want to play that team again," Buddle pointed out. "They don't have any revenge. They got what they wanted. We want to show that we're the better team."
Andrea Canales is Chief Editor of Goal.com North America and is trying to remember to update her Twitter account.
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