Another game, another standout performance by Edson Buddle.
Scoring two goals against Real Salt Lake Buddle accomplished several things. First, he helped the Galaxy beat RSL 2-1, thereby somewhat avenging last season’s MLS Cup final loss. Secondly, Buddle became the first player in MLS history to score the first seven goals for his club to start off a season.
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Also, and equally important, he was able to distinguish himself in the eyes of Landon Donovan.
“I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it,” Donovan said. “The goals are going in but there are other chances in the game that he’s just missing. He’s getting pulled around by people like you wouldn’t believe. He’s getting fouled and hammered.”
Buddle’s seven goals on the season set a new mark but more importantly have the Galaxy sitting atop the league with a 4-0-0 record.
Last season, the Galaxy picked up win number four on July 4. This season, it came in the middle of April and it was the hardest thus far.
Even though Real Salt Lake were missing Javier Morales and Ned Grabavoy, the visitors were game for nearly everything the Galaxy had to offer. Buddle opened the scoring in the 12th minute with a header off a corner kick, but RSL pulled level before the break as Kyle Beckerman scored from 22 yards out, on a ball that Buddle said may have been either a “mental lapse” or a “lucky break.”
The teams traded jabs in the second half until Buddle found himself open in the 76th minute and buried a 17-yard shot past Rimando. Riding his record-setting streak, Buddle said he has remained grounded despite the accomplishment.
“I always stay level headed. I’m not a person to get over the top because… there are ups and downs,” said Buddle, who was unaware of the record he set. “I’m just enjoying it right now. I’m glad I’m in a good rhythm and just hope I can keep scoring.”
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said his player is just doing his job.
“Forwards are supposed to score goals, he’s scoring goals,” Arena said. “He’s been great. What more can you say? His performance has been outstanding. I don’t know how else to describe what he’s done to date.”
RSL tried to outmuscle and play physical with Buddle. Central defenders Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave tried to contain Buddle, but were not too successful in doing so.
Buddle and Borchers, though, were going back and forth throughout the game, and not just with their respective physiques.
“Anytime the ball went in the air they basically just grabbed him,” Donovan said of Buddle. “He should have had a lot more fouls called for him… but he fought through and kept going. He got frustrated but we told him to keep going and score a goal. That’s how you respond and he did.”
After one particular series, Buddle and Borchers exchanged words.
“[Buddle] was pretty riled up,” Donovan said. “I said ‘Look, man, just go put it in the net. That’s the best way to shut him up.’ And he did. And Nat didn’t have a lot to say after that.”
For Buddle, though, what mattered most was getting the goal, not that he scored it.
“It was good to get the goal, but I was a little tired,” Buddle said. “I was just happy that we got the lead back and I just wanted to hold onto it and make sure we won the game and finished the game off right and not do the same thing we did in the first half.”
The Galaxy are now firmly in first place, five points ahead of Houston. But at least one player isn’t ready to shift into cruise control.
“It’s still early,” Donovan said. “You can’t get carried away. But the beauty is we have guys who have . . . thousands of professional games who aren’t even playing for us yet. Our best days are still ahead.”