The LA Galaxy's Edson Buddle was back at practice Thursday, his legs still a little weary from more than 20 hours of plane travel earlier in the week from the World Cup in South Africa but his upbeat spirit intact.
His Galaxy and National Team teammate Landon Donovan will return to practice on Friday after a busy week making the talk show circuit in New York City, but Buddle was happy to return to familiar surroundings.
"It was good to loosen up the legs a little bit," Buddle said. "The heat was definitely a difference."
Buddle said temperatures dropped to as low as 30 degrees during the night in South Africa and generally were in the 50s at game time.
"Hopefully tomorrow I'll feel a lot better," he said.
His coaches and teammates said they understood if Buddle may not have been at his sharpest Thursday.
"It's understandable if his legs are feeling a little heavy, but he looked fine today," defender Todd Dunivant said. "To come back today from all that travel, being in a different environment, mentally refocusing ... it isn't an easy thing, but he'll be fine."
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said he was pleased with the prospects of having his two leading scorers available for Sunday's game against Seattle Sounders FC. He also said Buddle also needs to get back in the flow.
"He has to get a little back in form now," he said of Buddle, who still leads MLS with nine goals despite missing the club’s last five games while with the National Team. "Although he participated in the World Cup, he didn't log that many minutes. He has to get that sharpness back."
Buddle said he kept close track of the Galaxy by way of the Internet and wasn't surprised to see them do so well. The Galaxy were 3-1-1 during Buddle and Donovan's absences, and that record doesn't include a 1-0 victory over Boca Juniors in an international friendly on May 23 and Tuesday's 2-0 victory over AC St. Louis in the Third Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
"The team has played well," he said. "I always said the team has a lot of depth, and that's going to carry us through the second half of the season."
Buddle, who saw action in two games during the World Cup, said he was disappointed the Americans couldn't have extended their stay in South Africa a bit longer.
"I think we could have gone a lot further," he said. "We were a lot fitter than some of the teams, but we just fell short. Maybe if one or two plays had gone our way it might have been a different scenario."
Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup match featured an interesting quartet in midfield for the Galaxy. Eddie Lewis started the game on the left and Chris Klein was on the right while Jovan Kirovski and Clint Mathis combined in the center of the park, a group whose average age was just over 34-years-old. The starting age of LA’s new-look back four that included Alex Cazumba, A.J. DeLaGarza, Bryan Jordan and Leonardo was just 22-years-old.
"I thought it was a men's league," Klein joked. "We've played together or against each other at one time or another since we were 16, 17-years-old. The familiarity was very good, and honestly we felt the quality was good.
"It was good for us to get a run and play major minutes to help our team advance in a tournament we want to win."
Klein scored the game's first goal in the 69th minute and Lewis assisted on Juninho's goal 11 minutes later. Lewis said he felt an extra comfort level with his veteran teammates and later moved to left back in the second half, with Cazumba moving up to take his spot at midfield.
"I've played on and off with those guys for a lot of years, and I'm very comfortable with what each of them give," Lewis said. "I definitely think it was a game mentally where it can be a little bit challenging if you're not really ready.
"You see a lot of MLS teams go out at this stage because they kind of let their guard down a bit and do not prepare themselves mentally. The four (who played in midfield) are all pretty darn good pros and make sure they go about a game like that in the right way."
ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
Thursday's practice session also marked the first appearance for forward Mike Magee, who is recovering from recent surgery to repair a bilateral sports hernia.
Magee did some light some running on the side and estimated it's still a couple of weeks before he'll enter into more serious workouts. He said it wasn't even three days ago that he couldn't cough or sneeze without feeling pain.
He also had run on a treadmill a couple of times before heading out to the field Thursday. The club placed Magee on its disabled list last week, meaning that he will not be eligible to return to the team until the Galaxy travel to New York on August 14.
"It feels pretty good," Magee said. "It's funny how you could go a whole year doing fitness, then go through the preseason and the season, then you're out two weeks and you kind of lose it all. It's funny how it works that way.
"We'll starting testing it out more in a couple of weeks. I think in the past guys have rushed back and played maybe two weeks later with the same surgery and they have complications. We're going to be careful."
NOT MISSING A BEAT
The Galaxy defense had a new goalkeeper in Josh Saunders and a new back four in Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup match, but the result was nothing new -- another clean sheet.
The Galaxy have allowed just four goals in 14 regular-season games compared to 18 goals allowed at this point in 2009. Real Salt Lake, Colorado and Columbus are tied for the next-fewest goals allowed with 11.
Dunivant attributed the Galaxy's defensive success to pride.
"It's just a mentality we have," he said. "New guys can come in and fill in those spots and we still get a shutout. It's something we pride ourselves on. We all have an understanding on what we want to do out there. The continuity from last year helps a lot; we brought the same pieces back and added one or two here and there. When you do that, it makes all the difference."
On Wednesday, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena was named to coach the MLS All-Stars against Manchester United on Wednesday, July 28 at Houston's Reliant Stadium.
Despite the honor, which is given to the coach that whose team has the best points-per-game average in League play through June 27, Arena said he won't take all of the credit.
"It's a great honor," Arena said, "but it's really a reflection on this group of players, my coaching staff and our organization. They deserve the real credit."
With the Galaxy scheduled to play a CONCACAF Champions League Qualifying Round game against the Puerto Rico Islanders on July 27, one day before the All-Star Game, Arena has selected Houston Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear to serve as his assistant and train the All-Stars in the run-up to the game, with Arena flying to Houston on Wednesday morning to coach the team.