NEW ORLEANS – If Bruce Arena wants to give Edson Buddle a real test in the LA Galaxy's CONCACAF Champions League clash against the Puerto Rico Islanders on Wednesday night (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer), the veteran forward is ready to go.
Buddle is still working his way back from knee surgery in late May, but after starts in LA's last two MLS Reserve League games and short stints in the last three first-team matches, he's ready to stretch out a little against the Islanders.
“Every day I feel like my knee is getting stronger,” Buddle said Monday during a fueling stop on the Galaxy's trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico. “[Playing time is] what it's going to take.
You can't throw me in there for 90 minutes – you have to build up the minutes; I think that's what Bruce is doing. The most I've played was 60 minutes. So hopefully I could get more. Eighty, 75 minutes.”
Buddle made his return with 20 minutes at the end of the Galaxy’s 4-0 victory last month over Puerto Rico, saw five minutes three days later against Vancouver, played the first half in a Sept. 4 Reserve League match at San Jose and 57 minutes a week ago against Portland, then came on in the 78th minute in Friday night's victory over Colorado.
“He's coming around,” Arena said Friday. “He's looking like the old Edson now. I think he's past the injury, now it's a matter of getting him in form in terms of getting his first touch a little bit better – which I think he did a good job [against Colorado] holding the ball up – a little better in his finishing and getting his fitness right. He'll be important for us as well as we close out the regular season.”
Buddle says his right knee is not yet as strong as the left, that “some days it's a little sorer than others,” but that “each and every day I feel more comfortable on the field. ... I have to keep strengthening it and work on my balance. It all comes together.”
Landon Donovan, too, will be looking for minutes against the Islanders after returning last week from a hamstring injury that sidelined him nearly a month. The Galaxy captain played a little more than a half-hour in the reserve game against Portland, then lasted until the 78th in the league game Friday.
“Certainly, not my best night, but it was good to get minutes in a victory,” he said after the 2-0 win over the Rapids. “It was good to get fitness. [The hamstring] was tired and sore at the end, but it was good to get through it.”
Arena said he “probably could have let Donovan go 90 minutes, but we needed to be safe. He was tired and we've just got to play him back into form. I've got to think in a couple of weeks he's going to be 100 percent.”
David Beckham's status is uncertain, however. He missed Friday's game with a sprained ankle and hasn't trained since he was hurt in the Sept. 1 victory over Vancouver. The Galaxy will not announce their travel roster until their practice Tuesday in Bayamón.