Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
BY ADAM SERRANO
"I don't think I've ever seen anything like it."
Those were the words Landon Donovan used to describe the run Edson Buddle is on after the Galaxy's 2-1 victory over defending champion Real Salt Lake. The mercurial forward's pair of goals against RSL not only gave Los Angeles the win, but also cemented Buddle's place in the record books as his 7 goals in 4 games set an MLS record.
Looking to erase the horrors of MLS Cup, when the striker missed a penalty that allowed Salt Lake to take the cup, Buddle appeared extremely motivated to make an impact on the match. On top of the bad memories and the expectations of his current run of form, the forward battled a physical RSL defense that seemed hellbent on getting under his skin. At the end of the day, however, it was Buddle who triumphed over the marking.
"I'm confident right now, but I've always stayed levelheaded because, like I said, there are always ups and downs. I'm just enjoying it right now and I hope that I keep scoring," said Buddle. "What is important however is that the team has great chemistry right now and we're playing in harmony, which is getting us victories."
Perhaps what makes the Galaxy's undefeated streak so impressive is that it comes as the team suffers through an injury bug that has kept a considerable amount of veteran experience off the field. The Salt Lake match was no different for the Galaxy, as central defender Leonardo was a scratch prior to game time due to a quad strain while right back Sean Franklin limped off the field in the 41st due to a left heel sprain. With the various injuries, the club relied on their young players to pick up the slack for the injured veterans as youngsters Mike Stephens, AJ DeLaGarza and Bryan Jordan all saw significant minutes in the victory.
As the club awaits the prognosis of Franklin, the Galaxy know that veteran defender Gregg Berhalter is rapidly recovering from injury and will be looking to make his return to the lineup next week against Kansas City. What could be scary for the rest of the league is that the Galaxy are on their incredible run without being at full strength.
"The beauty of what we're doing right now is that we're missing players who have hundreds if not thousands of professional games that aren't even playing for us right now," said Donovan. "I believe that our best days are still clearly ahead of us."
For the defending champions, the gameplan was simple, to put a great deal of pressure on the Galaxy and attempt to blanket their skill players, particularly ,Buddle to limit chances. Real Salt Lake was clearly missing their midfield maestro, Javier Morales, as the midfielder's replacement Nelson Gonzalez failed to make an impact against Los Angeles.
Despite the ineffectiveness, an incredible sequence in the 65th minute nearly gave the champions the lead when Robbie Findley struck the left post of Donovan Ricketts. A minute later, Robbie Russell fired in a beautiful cross to the head of Alvaro Sabrio who made a great effort,but saw his header go over the bar and then ruled offside. For all the offensive ineffectiveness, Salt Lake was only inches away from making it a very different game.
"We hit the post, we were really only a couple of inches from taking the lead and because we didn't convert, we found ourselves down 2-1," said Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman. "It was tough for us to take a loss and we've got a tough schedule during the first five games, but we've got to keep pushing so that we can get points whenever we can."
With the match over and the Galaxy victory in the books, one question lingered. Had this performance finally cemented Edson Buddle's place as a legitimate contender for a place on Bob Bradley's U.S. World Cup squad. Buddle's recent has reached such a pace that it may be difficult for Bradley to ignore when his preliminary roster is announced. The Galaxy forward, ever the humble player, was blunt about his feelings on being considered.
"It's a blessing and it's a good reward for all of your hard work," said Buddle. "If it happens it happens, but there's a lot of talk around it so we'll just see how it goes."