Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIPhotos.com
BY ADAM SERRANO
CARSON, Calif. — Fresh off his year and a half long stint in Germany, Edson Buddle does not feel like the same player that departed the Los Angeles Galaxy after a stellar 2010 season.
He believes that he's even better.
Buddle's return to the Galaxy became official last Thursday when the U.S. International returned to the club that he scored after spending the past year and a half with 2. Bundesliga side FC Ingolstadt 04. During his time in Germany, Buddle tallied nine goals in 32 appearances for Die Schanzer before having his contract terminated in mid-January.
The 30-year-old striker may have found some success in Germany, but was forced to watch from a distance while many of his teammates lifted the MLS Cup. After his first training session with the Galaxy since returning, Buddle insists he has not second-guessed his move to Germany.
"No regrets, I do things without regrets and I think that I learned a lot as far as European soccer and the system and I got to appreciate how hard that they train in Germany," Buddle told reporters on Monday morning. "That’s probably one of the weaknesses of my game is training and conditioning. I’ve been able to condition myself and prepare myself a lot better for each and every game."
The 30-year-old striker may be a more complete player than the one that left the Galaxy last season, but the transition was not always a smooth one. Faced with a new country, a new language and a club perpetually fighting for survival, the jovial forward struggled at times to find common ground with his new teammates.
The beginning of the end of Buddle's time in Germany came when manager Benno MÃ¶hlemann– who was instrumental in bringing the forward to Ingolstadt– was replaced by Tomas Oral. With the club fighting for survival, Buddle states that he and his coach "disagreed to agree in a way" sending Buddle on a six-week, two country search for a club.
"I went over to West Ham and Everton and a team had shown a lot of interest in Belgium (KVC Westerlo)," said Buddle. "But my working environment means a lot to me and it was tough to go to a team in Belgium that wasn’t doing so well and they didn’t have the facilities like the Galaxy to motivate me every morning so it wasn’t in my best interest to go over there.
"If it wasn’t a team in England or a good club, then I wasn’t going to just stay there. If I was younger, maybe I would, but at this age, I want to be on a winning team."
Key to Buddle returning to the Galaxy was the manner in which he left the club last offseason. After a phenomenal 2010 season that saw him score 17 goals and earn a spot on the U.S. World Cup squad, Buddle was unable to come to an agreement to return.Needing to replace their leading goal scorer, the Galaxy turned to forward Juan Pablo Angel and eventually Robbie Keane to pick up Buddle's offensive slack.
With their former leading scorer bound for Germany, the Galaxy chose to retain Buddle's rights, leaving the door open for a potential return to Los Angeles. His star forward finally secured, head coach Bruce Arena admits that the club could have done more to keep him after the 2010 season.
"We did our best to keep Edson and perhaps, but we could have done more," said Arena. "We think on our part, we made a good offer, but Edson had some other great opportunities and we thought he wished to pursue them as well. If we had to do it all over again, sure, I would have agreed to do a little bit more. At the time, we did the things that we did were right. "
With his deal completed, the forward appeared sharp in training on Monday, finishing a number of chances during various drills. Due to his sharpness and apparent midseason form, Buddle will take part in the club's scrimmage against the Portland Timbers on Tuesday.
Finally back in Southern California after a rollercoaster experience in Europe , Buddle believes that his German adventure will only benefit him as he looks to re-gain his status as one of MLS' most feared forwards.
"There was not a day in Germany that I didn't think about the Galaxy or follow last season," said Buddle. "With my experience, I feel a bit wiser coming back into the team and I still feel that I can contribute to the team going into the season."