CARSON, Calif. – Despite playing for a different club in a foreign country, Edson Buddle never felt as if he had severed all ties with the LA Galaxy.
“There was not a day in Germany that I didn’t think about the Galaxy,” Buddle said in a press conference on Monday.
Now that he’s back, it seems as though he had never left.
Physically, Buddle was with FC Ingolstadt in 2011, but emotionally, he was at the Home Depot Center. While his teammates were battling through last season, defending their Supporters’ Shield title and trying to lay claim to the MLS Cup crown, Buddle was more than a close observer – he was as invested into the team and the year as anyone on the roster.
“I’m very happy for the guys,” Buddle said. “Even though I wasn’t here, I was close to these guys and I felt like I was a part of it because I was cheering them on all year.”
Now that Buddle has returned, the Galaxy seem to possess a top collection of attacking talent. To go along with the likes of Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Robbie Keane, LA get a player in Buddle who scored 17 goals in his last full season in the league and one of the league’s top all-time leading scorers – the only player in league history, in fact, to score more than 40 goals for two different MLS clubs.
While he is expected to produce goals aplenty during his second turn in LA, it might be hard for Buddle to enjoy the kind of success he had in 2010, when he played his way onto the US World Cup team with his superb start to the season.
Still, no matter the heightened expectations that may be placed upon him, Buddle said he would have wanted to improve on his previous season in MLS no matter the circumstances.
“I’m hard on myself,” he said. "I always want to do well and want to better than I did last time I was here anyway. That’s just a goal of mine. No one can put any more pressure on myself than I do.”
In Buddle, the Galaxy get a known commodity and constant production. That, however, is something LA passed on when Buddle's deal was up after the 2010 season. The club turned to Juan Pablo Ángel and could not re-sign Buddle, who bolted for Germany.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena admitted Monday that it would have been wiser to have kept Buddle around in the first place.
“We did our best to keep Edson; perhaps we could have done more,” Arena said. “The reality is that we felt on our part we made a good offer. Edson had some other great opportunities and he wished to pursue them as well. If we had to do them all over again, I would agree.”
Both Buddle and Arena said there were no hard feelings over the departure and that having the chance to play abroad was a good experience for the striker.
“I think it was a real positive experience for him as a player and culturally,” Arena said. “When he comes back here, hopefully those experiences make him a better player for the Galaxy.”
Buddle enjoyed a modicum of success in Germany, scoring some key goals for 2.Bundesliga side Ingoldstadt. However, the club found itself in the same predicament at the end of 2011 as it did in the beginning of the year.
“The team is at the bottom and [Ingolstadt] got a new coach and he wants to bring in his own players,” Buddle said. “They’re fighting right now to stay on top. The coach has a lot of pressure there. It’s not something I’m unfamiliar with. When I got there, they were in the same position.”
Ingolstadt's desire to pursue other options, combined with Buddle’s hopes of playing for a winning team, meant only one logical conclusion.
“We both agreed to go our separate ways and it was in my best interest to find a better club,” Buddle said.
Trials in England did not lead to much, and when ultimately faced with a decision, Buddle opted to go with the familiar choice.
“If it wasn’t a team in England or a good club, I wouldn’t have just stayed there,” he said. “If I was younger, maybe I would. But at this age, I want to be a winning team.”
The Galaxy gladly took Buddle back and now that he’s returned, he should be able to produce from the start.
“There is no reason to believe he can’t replicate the seasons he’s had in MLS previously,” Arena said. “We expect him to be a very good player for us and we anticipate he’ll score goals.”
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.