German Alegria

Buddle gets the call

The LA Galaxy's Edson Buddle had just finished a team meal after the U.S. National Team's 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic on Tuesday in an international friendly in Hartford, Conn., when he and his teammates were told to come to a meeting.

It was about 2:30 in the morning East Coast time when the 29-year-old got the news: he was heading to next month's World Cup.

"I'm pretty tired," Buddle said by phone on Wednesday when asked if he had gotten much sleep. "It really hasn't sunk in yet, but I'm sure it will."

The announcement, made official on Wednesday morning in front of a national television audience, capped a stunning turnaround for Buddle, who came from virtually nowhere to earn a spot on the squad that will compete in South Africa. Coming into camp with the National Team earlier this month, he had just one cap to his credit, a 10-minute stint during a 2003 friendly against Venezuela in Seattle, and was not even in the picture as recently as the start of the MLS season in March. But a sizzling start to the 2010 season saw him score nine goals in the Galaxy’s first six games, including four multi-goal games, and positioned him for a dream National Team recall, more than seven years after his debut with the Red, White and Blue.

Buddle always could score goals -- he is the 10th-leading scorer in league history with 82 goals -- but mostly had been known for a string of injuries throughout a 10-year career that began with the Columbus Crew in 2001.

He had his best season as a professional in 2008, when he scored a career-high 15 goals for the Galaxy -- third in the league behind Landon Donovan's 20 -- but he slumped to just five goals last season and missed 11 games because of various injuries. His string of misfortune, however, vanished once the 2010 season began and U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley brought him into training camp in Princeton, N.J.

Buddle said he arrived at camp believing his chances to make the team were as good as those of anyone, and his 45 minutes of playing time in Tuesday's friendly -- including several stitches in his lip from a first-half collision -- strengthened his resolve.

"Just being here I thought I had a chance," he said. "They (coaches) believed in me and called me in. After last night, I felt pretty good about it."    

The first person he told was his father, Winston, who drove up from New Rochelle, N.Y., to attend the game. He said he hasn't called too many others, but he has received plenty of congratulatory calls.

Donovan, his Galaxy teammate, told him he was especially proud of him.

Buddle and his teammates on Wednesday were en route to Washington, D.C., where they will meet with President Obama at the White House on Thursday before heading off to Philadelphia for Saturday's friendly against Turkey. Then it's off to South Africa on Sunday with the rest of the U.S. delegation to prepare for their June 12 World Cup opener against England.

Buddle admitted making the team is a little hard to believe at this point.

"I've had some crazy dreams, and this is probably one of them," he said. "And it's come true. It's a blessing and I'm proud to be here."

He also said making the sacrifices to get to this point was worth it.

"It sure does," he said. "It feels good. That's life in general, it's all about persevering through challenges."