With huge questions marks hanging over the final composition of USA’s strikeforce in South Africa, one player has been simply on fire in the MLS.
Edson Buddle, who will be 29 on May 21, has catapulted himself into contention for selection with his scintillating performances for LA Galaxy.
Buddle scored twice in a 3-1 victory over Philadelphia Union at the weekend. He has now bagged nine of Galaxy’s 10 goals this season, as the franchise claimed its fifth win in six MLS matches.
Buddle’s career can best be described as somewhat checkered. It has included a number of off-field issues, injuries and patchy form. To date, he has just one full international cap to his name — earned in a friendly against Venezuela in 2003 — so inexperience is definitely against him.
However, his game intelligence and work ethic have improved since then, along with his nose for goal.
Most teams will bring four strikers to the World Cup. As it stands, only Jozy Altidore — and maybe Brian Ching — can consider themselves likely to be named forwards in the USA squad by Bob Bradley.
It is highly unlikely that regular Charlie Davies will now make it, following his injury in a car crash that killed a passenger last October.
His progress from a broken leg, a dislocated elbow, a broken nose, multiple facial fractures and a ruptured bladder has been remarkable, but it was recently announced that he will not line out for his French club Sochaux before the end of the season, as had been anticipated.
So who else is in contention? You’ve got Herculez Gomez, in form with Puebla in Mexico, and also deserving of consideration; the home based Robbie Findlay (Real Salt Lake) and Conor Casey (Colorado); Kenny Cooper (Plymouth, England); and Eddie Johnson (Aris, Greece).
There is also the possibility that Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey could slot in up front if required, so Bradley could go with just three strikers and add another creative midfielder to the squad such as Alejandro Bedoya.
Buddle would probably best fit as a replacement for Altidore, rather than a partner, due to his style, but is definitely a tempting proposition as it stands.
The US training camp opens on May 15 and Bradley is expected to include around 26 to 28 players. It will convene at a destination expected to be on the east coast.
US. Soccer is expected to announce its list of camp invitees in the next couple of days, while FIFA will release each of the 32 participating teams’ preliminary selections of 30 players on May 11.
USA will then play two friendlies against the Czech Republic in Connecticut on May 25 and against Turkey in Philadelphia on May 29. The team will leave for South Africa the following day.
Whether Buddle’s on the plane remains to be seen, but he should at least be given an opportunity – along with Gomez — to prove his worth during the two friendlies.
It may not be a European league that he’s lighting up, but having a red hot and in-form goal poacher in your squad who is scoring with more regularity right now than Calvin Borel wins Kentucky Derbies may not be such a bad idea.