When Edson Buddle was selected for the United States’ World Cup training camp, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena was faced with a tricky decision.
In Buddle, he had a player who had logged more than 14,000 minutes in his MLS career and whose nine goals this season brought his career total to 82. To replace his star striker, one option was Tristan Bowen, who had logged all of one minute before the 2010 campaign.
Massive drop-off, right? Bowen’s play would suggest otherwise.
With Buddle away with the U.S. World Cup squad, Bowen has stepped into the vacant forward position and has started in the two games that the Galaxy have played since Buddle and Landon Donovan left for international duty.
Bowen has responded with a goal and an assist, playing key roles in two Galaxy victories.
So what’s been the secret to his success?
“I think it’s a lot of things. First and foremost, the guys on the team made my job a lot easier in the games,” said Bowen. “They are giving me a lot of information about where I should be defensively [and] offensively; where I should make my runs to make the team more successful.
“I’ve been working hard in practice every day, I’ve been watching a lot of game tape and throughout the past three games I’ve been trying to improve on my weaknesses. I think [that] combination…just makes my performances steadily get better.”
Against FC Dallas, Bowen set up Mike Magee with a pass across the penalty area on a counterattack that led to the game’s only goal. Bowen put away the Galaxy’s latest victory --a 2-0 win over Columbus Crew on Saturday-- with a late goal, his first regular-season tally. Sandwiched in between there was a 90-minute performance against Boca Juniors in which Bowen again scored the game’s only goal.
Bowen, 19, is one of the Galaxy least experienced players. When compared to the club’s World Cup veterans and players who have spent time overseas, the Galaxy’s newest revelation is only a toddler.
“He’s still a young, inexperienced player and he’s worked hard to get on the field,” Arena said. “You see some of the qualities there. He’s a strong, powerful kid and has an uncanny ability to get chances and he’s finished the chances that have come his way. He deserves a lot of credit.”
Having done well to get himself onto the field and perform once there, Bowen said he’s gained quite a bit of confidence.
Such an asset to have on his side is a valuable quality to have and develop.
“It means a lot. You can’t stop a player with confidence,” Bowen said when asked how powerful having a lot of confidence can be. “If you believe that you are going to go on the field and be effective, there’s nothing that can stop you. As long as you believe in yourself, you are going to go out there and put on a performance.”
Buddle and Donovan won’t be back until sometime in July, depending on how far the US National Team go in the World Cup. The Galaxy will play Houston on Saturday and then Real Salt Lake on Wednesday before taking time off before visiting Toronto on June 26. Whether Bowen plays a role in those games remain to be seen.
Although he’s done well when called upon recently, Bowen said he’s not penciling himself into the starting lineup.
“Every day in practice determines whether you’re going to be starting or not. All I can do is go out there and just work hard every day,” he said. “I definitely feel part of the team. I definitely feel like I can contribute to the team when I step on the field. Every day I just go out there and try to put myself in a position to be called on and start and hopefully help the team.”