It was a moment that could have played out so much differently.
Edson Buddle stood at the penalty spot deep in a penalty-kick shootout. Perched on the goal line was Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando, and if Buddle could just get the ball past both, the Galaxy would be one stop away from an MLS championship.
Buddle fired. Rimando dived. The penalty was turned away.
Robbie Russell converted the ensuing spot kick and Real Salt Lake had their championship at the Galaxy’s expense.
“I just don’t want to be remembered for a thing like that,’ Buddle said. “It’s definitely motivation and preparation for the season.”
Buddle has done well so far to erase the memory. The Galaxy forward leads the league with five goals, accounting for each of the club’s goals this season. He’s also already matched his total scoring output from last season, which was marred by hip and toe injuries.
The Galaxy, in turn, are 3-0-0 and playing arguably the best soccer in the league thus far.
“It left a bitter taste in my mouth,” Buddle said of last year’s shortcomings. “I wouldn’t want to leave the fans thinking that that was going to hurt me or slow me down by any means. I wanted to come out on top of that scenario and show that I still want to win.”
On Saturday, Buddle will have further opportunity to prove his worth while hoping for a bit of payback as Real Salt Lake visits the Galaxy. It’s not the same as Nov. 22, 2009, but it will be a game the Galaxy want to win nonetheless.
“Losing in the final, you want to play that team again. It’s going to be physical and you want to win. I’m sure they’re up to the task,” Buddle said. “They got what they wanted and we just want to show that we are the better team.”
The goals have seemingly come rather effortlessly. He scored on two early headers, against New England and Chivas USA, respectively. Against the Galaxy’s in-stadium rivals, Buddle put away a goal after he and Landon Donovan broke into the penalty area late in the match.
Buddle banged in a pair against Houston, each an impressive strike – he scored on a tight angle against Pat Onstad, then hammered a side volley into the back of the net to finish off Houston.
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy, right?
“It’s not easy at all. It’s never easy,” Buddle said. “The opposition always makes it tough to get free, and it’s physical. Especially the last game. We’re just happy we’re coming away with results right now.”