COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Back in December, when the Colorado Rapids traded allocation money and a first-round pick in the 2013 Supplemental Draft to the LA Galaxy for veteran Edson Buddle, their expectation was that they had found their badly needed answer at striker.
And in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Toronto FC, the Rapids finally got their first finish from their brand-new finisher.
Sure, Buddle’s first goal in Rapids burgundy came almost entirely as a result of a fortunate slip by Toronto FC defender Logan Emory in the 86th minute. But Buddle’s gimmick-free, close-distance blast into the back of the net offered a glimpse into what head coach Oscar Pareja and his Rapids ultimately need: goals, and lots of them, from his new No. 9.
Highlights: Colorado 1, Toronto FC 0
“We spoke with the boys at halftime and we said we needed someone to put the ball in the back of the net,” Pareja said postgame on Saturday. “That's why we brought him in. He's been there enough, and we know that he's not fit yet. We know he's in the process of getting back to the team.”
One of the Rapids’ lagging points in their 3-4-3 start to the season has been an issue they tried to rectify during the offseason: missed chances. It’s no coincidence that Colorado have struggled to finish while Buddle has battled right knee inflammation through the opening two months of the season.
But after being forced to the sidelines for two games with residual knee pain, Buddle was a productive second-half substitute for Saturday’s victory, and after the match he said he felt fine in his first appearance since April 13.
“The knee is fine. I was able to calm it down that week I took off, and it feels great,” Buddle said. “Now I just need to get in shape. When I can continue to train, it makes it a lot easier to get in shape.”
Despite a seemingly never-ending rash of injuries, Pareja knows the Rapids’ eight-goal output in 10 games is not nearly what he’s looking for out of his possession-based, high-octane offense.
But with Buddle notching his first goal of the season on Saturday, the 31-year-old now believes the worst of the team’s finishing problems are behind them.
“It's going to come. I think we know that,” Buddle said. “The good thing is that we are getting chances. It would be a bad thing if we weren't getting any chances. We have good players that find themselves in dangerous positions, and we'll put those chances away.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.