Edson Buddle has captured the league’s attention since the first day of the season, and this week was no exception. The Galaxy star’s selection onto the US World Cup roster trumped even the hype for LA’s biggest match to date, a unbeaten showdown with Columbus on Saturday night.
This week the Soap Box turned to Isaac Menchaca, a card-carrying member of the Los Angeles Riot Squad supporters group, to talk about Buddle’s surprise selection and preview the biggest match of the weekend.
MLSsoccer.com: What’s the biggest news in Los Angeles this week; Edson Buddle or the Galaxy game against the Crew?
IM: I’d say Buddle’s taking the attention. The Crew’s an important match, but the focus is always around international play, and it’s definitely big news for us. Edson kind of just got on a hot steak out of the blue, but we thought it was a bit of a stretch for him to be included in the 30. We didn’t think the cut would be too favorable to him.
MLSSoccer.com: Why do you think he made the team?
IM: He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now, even in the games he hasn’t scored in. He looks dangerous, he looks fast, and he looks like he knows exactly what he’s doing. Even in that friendly game against the Czech Republic, he looked very dangerous. He was around the plays when he needed to be, making the runs he needed to make. Sometimes you don’t get a goal, but if you create enough danger, you’ll catch some people’s eyes.
MLSsoccer.com: Buddle’s mentioned his play has been due to health and consistency this season with the Galaxy. Agree?
IM: Absolutely. The way clubs coached by Bruce Arena work, he establishes a system first, and then the players kind of work around it. You can see that’s working, especially with the number of bench players who’ve had to step up because of injuries. Just having the same guys going into the bench as last season is huge for our consistency.
MLSsoccer.com: Everyone talks about the Galaxy’s offense, but tell me what we don’t know about the defense.
IM: Consistency has been the key. You can put Berhalter in there, you can put Leonardo in there, and even Bryan Jordan has stepped in there with Chris Klein. It’s all about the system, and guys knowing what role they fit into when they get off the bench.
MLSsoccer.com: Is Omar Gonzalez the All-Star center back?
IM: I think so. He could have made a case for himself with the national team, and it’s a shame he didn’t get more opportunities. We didn’t know that much about him last year because we don’t get a ton of exposure to college players, but he’s really followed up last year beautifully. He’s not the fastest guy on the team, but he has great positioning. Every game you can see a play or two where he’s just in the right place because he set himself up to be there. He doesn’t allow himself to get torched because he always seems to have the high ground on them.
MLSsoccer.com: Who’s been the biggest surprise for you?
IM: The biggest surprise has been seeing some of the guys who didn’t play as well last season, and all of a sudden they’re guys you’d love to have on the field. Even Alan Gordon, a guy who’s been injured but he can come off the bench to score. You can reach deep onto that bench for some quality players, and that’s certainly something we didn’t have before Bruce came along. We were paper-thin in a lot of positions.
MLSsoccer.com: What’s your impression of the Crew?
IM: Whatever consistency you talk about with the Galaxy, you have to take it up a notch with the Crew. It’s been two of three seasons for them, and they’ve built on what Sigi Schmid built way back. And Schelotto, he’s just such a creative player, when he’s on the field he’s going to find where the Galaxy are hurting, if at all, and if they’re not hurting, he’ll find a way to make them hurt. It’s tough to find a weakness on that team.
MLSsoccer.com: How much does it hurt to be missing Buddle and Donovan, while the Crew have Robbie Rogers and Chad Marshall back from US camp?
IM: Maybe a little bit. Obviously it hurts not to have Landon and Buddle, because they were carrying the team. But on their end, maybe it’s a double-edged sword. It’s good to have their players back, I’m sure, but you gotta wonder what state of mind those guys are in. They just missed out on the biggest opportunity of their lives so far. That’s gotta be tough.
MLSsoccer.com: What happens this weekend?
IM: You can probably expect a scoreless draw, or a 1-0 game either way. Bruce Arena has a system, and the team’s sticking to that system, but it’s going to be a tough game. I don’t see either side opening up too much, but the Galaxy’s not going to go easy just because their stars aren’t there.