CARSON, Calif. – Among the many positives the LA Galaxy took from their CONCACAF Champions League victory Wednesday night over the Puerto Rico Islanders, Edson Buddle's return to action might have been the biggest.
The veteran forward, sidelined since tearing his right meniscus three months ago, came on for the final 20 minutes, had a few touches on the ball, got into the Islanders' box a couple of times, then declared himself pleased with the outcome.
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“It felt good,” said Buddle, who has been fighting one injury or another since returning to the Galaxy in late January following a year in Germany. “I was a little cautious, but I think through my equipment team and the medical staff I was ready to go out there and push as hard as I can.
"But at the same time, I was aware that it is my first game, and I think my teammates around me made it easier because they were available and the young guys have been doing a good job.”
He took a pass in the box from Hector Jimenez in the 73rd minute, but his touch was hard, nearly had an open header in the goalmouth a minute later and showed off some nifty footwork in a tête-à-tête with two defenders on the right flank in the 84th. He found an opening in a crowded box a couple of minutes after that, but Bryan Gaul's pass from the left was denied.
“It was good,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “It was the first time he's probably been on the field in close to three months. I think getting him back on the field is a good starting point, and hopefully we can build on it.”
Buddle scored 15 goals for LA in 2008 and 17 in 2010 – he's eight away from being the eighth player to hit 100 in MLS history – but he netted just two with an assist in 12 league games this year before he was hurt May 26 against Houston.
The Galaxy were 3-8-2 then, but they've climbed from last place to fourth in the Western Conference, just three points out of second, with a 9-3-2 run while Buddle focused on rehab. That run, he says, provided motivation to recover fully.
“It kind of helped my injury,” Buddle said. “Because Bruce was in a good mood every day and didn't put any pressure on me to get back, because the team is doing well. It allowed me to heal properly.”
The next step, he says, is to contribute, and that means one thing.
“Score goals,” he said. “Do what I've done in the past and score goals.”