MLS' top scorer Edson Buddle seemed like a fish out of water on his first day of training at U.S. World Cup camp. He admitted as much when asked about what is demanded of a player on the international stage.
“I haven’t been there yet,” he said. “It’s my first time. We’ll see if I get the chance.”
Technically this World Cup camp is not his first time but it might as well be. It’s been more than seven years since he made his one and only national-team appearance, coming on as a second-half substitute for Brian McBride against Venezuela in 2003.
“It feels like the first time again,” the Galaxy striker said. “It’s been so long and the first time was so short.”
He may have nine goals on the MLS season, which earned him the call-up to the World Cup squad, but Buddle admits he does not know what it takes to perform on the national team level.
“What I hear is that you have to have your play set before it comes to you,” Buddle said. “And just be more aware. Can’t take too many breaks on the field. Actually, no breaks at all once you’re on the field. Hopefully my quick decision-making will make things easier.”
With Bob Bradley's decision on his final 23-man squad coming before the May 29 friendly against Turkey, Buddle has 10 days and one match—May 25 vs. Czech Republic—to show he belongs.
He credits doing the little things, staying healthy and actually playing soccer in California during the long MLS offseason as the main factors for his success in 2010. His teammate on the Galaxy, Landon Donovan, concurs with the assessment.
“I’ve said this a hundred times now—the goals are impressive as a striker but most important are the things he‘s doing away from scoring goals which have been impressive,” Donovan said. “What I always tell guys always when they come into camp is to continue doing what they do well. Sometimes they want to do something more or do something differently … For the most part he has to be himself and he’ll be fine.”
Buddle reiterated on Tuesday that with every goal he scored in MLS, he still never expected the call-up. So much so, that he was moved to tears upon receiving the news that he was part of the provisional 30-man roster.
“This opportunity comes once in a lifetime,” he said. “Not everyone gets to have this chance and I realize that. So I was really happy, eyes watering a little bit. But I know there’s more work ahead and that’s a challenge.”