CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena had been looking to change the dynamic of a team that had stumbled slightly since its early-season blitz through MLS and may have come up with a possible solution in one of the biggest games of the year.
Arena went with two veterans, Edson Buddle and Jovan Kirovski, up front in last Saturday’s showdown with the Columbus Crew, and the result was one of the Galaxy’s best performances of 2010. Buddle added to his league-leading goal total with his 14th of the season and Kirovski added a goal and an assist in an impressive 3-1 victory.
Buddle, 29, is in his 10th MLS season while Kirovski, who turned 34 in March, is in his seventh in addition to a long playing career in Europe, and Arena knew exactly what he was getting from the popular veterans. He had contemplated changing his forward line against the Crew earlier in the week and had considered partnering Buddle with either Tristan Bowen, Mike Magee or Kirovski before going with the latter.
“Obviously, Edson is not a surprise there and Jovan has played there a fair amount,” Arena said after Monday’s light training session. “We just felt in training Jovan was going to be the best choice for the week.
“Wherever we play Jovan he brings us experience, a brain on the field. My analysis of our team is we needed that. We’ve needed smarter players on the field, and Jovan brings us that. We know that he’s probably not going to win a lot of foot races, but to have another smart player on the field who understands what needs to be done each and every game is critical.”
Kirovski, whose four goals in 2010 are the most he’s had in one season since he scored six for the Colorado Rapids in 2007 (his career high is eight with the Galaxy in 2004), said playing alongside Buddle was and is a pleasure.
“He’s good on the ball, he’s clever and both of us have pretty good size,” he said of his teammate. Both of them stand 6 feet 1. “It’s great when we get the ball wide and we both get in the box.
“Bruce knows what he’s going to get out of us. It worked out well.”
Buddle opened the scoring with a left footed shot off a cross from Sean Franklin in the 13th minute against the Crew, while Kirovski got on the scoresheet with a 55th minute header. He was on the receiving end of a long ball from Alex Cazumba and gave the Galaxy a comfortable 3-0 lead.
Buddle said Kirovski’s experience cannot be underestimated.
“He’s confident on the ball,” Buddle said. “When I have the ball, I know I can play him the ball in any position, whether he’s open or in tight space, I know he can handle himself well, and that gives a player like myself a lot of confidence.
“He’s played a lot of games and he’s not intimidated by anyone.”
Buddle and Kirovski are unsure if Arena will keep the twosome together for this Saturday’s game against D.C. United, but Arena may not want to break up a good thing.
If they aren’t paired together, both players are confident the Galaxy will succeed no matter who Arena decides on to man the forward line.
“One of our strengths as a team is we feel confident with whoever is on the field,” Buddle said. “We’ll see, but things can change.”
Said Kirovski, “We’ve got good players, but any kind of a mix with Edson is good. I hope so… I hope so.”