CARSON, Calif. – The best thing the LA Galaxy got out of Sunday's 2-2 draw at San Jose was Edson Buddle's sudden return to form, in a splendid showing that included a goal and a glimpse of what the defending champs' attack might look like as the playoffs arrive.
Making his first MLS start since undergoing knee surgery at the start of June, Buddle looked a lot like the big, physical forward who terrorized opposing defenses for 15 goals in 2008 and 17 in 2010.
“Looked like the Edson of old,” proclaimed right back Sean Franklin, whose 69th-minute cross Buddle headed home for a 2-1 advantage that lasted four minutes. “It's nice having him back and healthy, and for him, I think getting that goal was a huge confidence boost. He was a beast all day battling against their center backs. The way he played was like vintage Edson.”
Buddle, who has just three goals this year (and 93 in a dozen MLS seasons), had offered bits and pieces of his best self in seven first-team and three reserve appearances since returning at the end of August, but his performance Sunday – especially how he meshed with Robbie Keane up front – was something else altogether.
“He was competitive. He was strong,” Galaxy associate head coach Dave Sarachan said. “We always say when a center forward like Edson goes against defenders, when that game's over, those defenders are beat up. I believe [San Jose center backs Víctor] Bernárdez and [Justin] Morrow and that backline felt it.”
Buddle's movement and combination play, largely missing since his return, was in full bloom, and the Galaxy might have scored another three or four goals – one when Buddle went one-on-one with goalkeeper Jon Busch in the first half – with more precise finishing. The interchange with Keane, especially, was particularly impressive.
“We felt we played well,” said Keane, whose 16th goal gave LA a short-lived 1-0 lead. “Full credit to Edson. He's had a long injury [recovery] and comeback, and it was nice for him to get the goal. He's a good player, he's very, very strong, and I think he will be an important player for us in the coming weeks.”
Buddle, who returned to the Galaxy in early February after a year in Germany, acknowledged that there had been some “frustration” earlier this season as he and Keane tried to build a partnership. The big New Yorker endured several minor injuries before tearing his right meniscus May 26 at Houston, and Keane and captain Landon Donovan subsequently evolved into one of MLS' most potent frontlines. Buddle stepped in for Donovan, out with a knee injury, against San Jose.
“Being injured, I was able to watch a lot of our games and see how [Keane] plays,” Buddle said. “And I think a lot of our success has been through getting the ball to him early. I came in this game with the same attitude: I'm just going to find him early, and I know he likes to combine with players, and we all just crash the box.”
Sarachan said he's seen this coming.
“You know, Edson has showed real signs the last two weeks [in training] of being a guy that we remember, in terms of holding balls up and being real hard to play against,” he said. “When he came off in the 90th minute [against the Earthquakes], I shook his hand and I said, 'Welcome back.'
“I think he's back.”