Has opposition finally figured out Buddle?

Galaxy striker has cooled off; Arena gives other teams credit

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CARSON, Calif. – When the Los Angeles Galaxy were steamrolling through Major League Soccer in the early part of the season, Edson Buddle was more than doing his part. He scored nine goals in the first six games of the season and parlayed that into a spot on the US National Team. By the time he left for South Africa, the Galaxy were 7-0-2.

While his scoring has not slowed down since returning from the World Cup, the rate of victories has. And there seems to be a theme with Buddle and his goals. In games where Buddle has scored this season, the Galaxy are 8-0-1; when Buddle plays but does not score, their record is 2-4-2.

Buddle, though, said he does not feel any extra pressure to help break the team out of its slump.

“There’s always been pressure from the beginning,” Buddle said.

While opponents have done their part from the start of the season to knock Buddle around, he has responded time and time again. When teams like Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake tried to muscle him around, Buddle responded with two goals apiece in victories against those Western Conference foes.

Things may have changed a little, though.

“I’ve been in this league a long time so teams know my tendencies,” Buddle said. “The only difference is now we’re not getting to the second balls. I’m able to challenge as usual and go up but we’re not around the second ball and that’s just as important as winning the first ball.”

While the Galaxy also feature Landon Donovan, it has been Buddle’s scoring prowess that has taken the Galaxy to the top of the table. His only league goal that has come in a non-winning effort was on July 22, when the Galaxy overcame a late deficit to tie San Jose 2-2.

Buddle’s most recent goal was in a 1-0 win over New York on Aug. 14, a game that typified the Galaxy’s strong start: an early Buddle goal, strong defensive play and a shutout victory.

Still, teams are getting wise to the Galaxy’s formula.

“There is certainly a real strong defensive focus on Edson,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “He’s getting fouled a lot. It goes with the territory and I think he understands that. It is what it is but I give the players who have been playing against him a lot of credit – they’ve dealt with him real well.”

Such focus from opponents puts more responsibility on his teammates to react. However, Buddle and Donovan have done a bulk of the scoring, particularly since July – the two players have combined for 18 of the club’s 32 goals this season.

But the only player to score a goal for the Galaxy since their return from South Africa is Juninho, who scored a goal in a 3-1 win over Seattle on July 4. In that game, the Galaxy also got on the scoreboard via a Seattle own-goal.

“The players who are playing around Edson have to be a little bit sharper in their movements and their passing and that kind of thing and we’re not getting that,” Arena said.

Ultimately, it will take a team effort to get through the slump, Buddle said.

“The guys have done a good job this year of getting the ball to me in good spots and teams aren’t making it easy,” he said. “It just pushes me a little bit harder, knowing that I have to work a little bit harder, do the little things in training, so where it doesn’t happen as often where I’m not scoring goals. We just have to fight through this time and hopefully we can get it together.”