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Rapids expect recovering Buddle to be ready for opener

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – On a crisp and crystal blue Tuesday morning in suburban Denver, new Rapids striker Edson Buddle tested out his injured right knee at a practice field at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Prognosis: So far, so good.

Buddle jogged on the troublesome knee for the first time on Tuesday, testing it out just weeks after suffering a setback during US national team training in January. He is still hoping to be in the lineup for his new team when they open their season against FC Dallas on March 2.

“Of course, we haven’t talked about not missing the first game of the season,” Buddle told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “There’s nothing wrong with [the knee], I just think it needs to strengthen around it.”

READ: Can Buddle regain his game-winning form in Colorado?

When they acquired Buddle from the LA Galaxy for a first-round Supplemental Draft selection and allocation money in December, the Rapids rolled the dice that Buddle can return to his 2010 form, which saw him score 17 goals in just 25 games and earn a spot on the US World Cup team.

Colorado parted ways with the their all-time leading goal scorer Conor Casey in November, and then sent Casey’s long-time strike partner Omar Cummings to Houston in December. Now the majority of the team’s goalscoring needs will fall on Buddle’s shoulders, making the health of his knee paramount as the Rapids look to avoid missing the postseason for the second consecutive season.

After undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus last June while playing in LA, Buddle had to have his knee drained several times through the remainder of the season, making only seven appearances and scoring one goal after the surgery.

Despite the recent troubles with the knee, however, both Buddle and his new coach, Oscar Pareja, are optimistic that with continued therapy and rehabilitation they’ll have their star striker back and fully healthy for the season opener.

“He got his last injection and we’re in the recovery process, but it looks very good,” Pareja said on Tuesday. “We think he’s a possibility for the opener. We need him for the whole season, not just one game.”

Buddle elected not to get his knee scoped last month – “I’d just rather not be cut open again” – and instead had been undergoing platelet-rich plasma therapy in LA. The 31-year-old veteran was told by doctors that there is likely loose cartilage causing fluid buildup in that knee, and a recurrence of the knee fluid forced Buddle to leave the US team early.

Buddle said he will travel with the team to its Las Vegas preseason training camp this week, potentially leading to his preseason debut as soon as Thursday or Friday, although now conditioning is of the essence.

“I’ve got to get fit,” Buddle said. “I feel the altitude.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.