CARSON, Calif. – Edson Buddle has been the premier MLS goal-scoring threat throughout 2010, but with one game left to cap an impressive season, he's got a dogfight on his hands to claim the first Golden Boot of his career.
Both Buddle and San Jose's Chris Wondolowski enter the final weekend deadlocked at 17 goals apiece. If there's going to be an outright winner, it'll almost certainly be one of the two Western Conference rivals.
For Buddle, though, just having the chance to claim the prestigious award is special.
“I definitely would like to get the Golden Boot but … it’s not in the bag yet,” Buddle said. “It’s not going to be easy this weekend to score a goal, but that’s my job. Hopefully I can come through and provide for my team.”
If either player has an advantage, it’s likely Buddle. The Earthquakes play at Kansas City on Saturday, and San Jose boss Frank Yallop has said he may not start Wondolowski with the playoffs looming.
Buddle, conversely, will likely start against FC Dallas this weekend with the Supporters' Shield possibly on the line. (Depending on Real Salt Lake's result against Colorado on Saturday, the Galaxy may need a win against FCD to lock up the season title.)
“It’s a great accomplishment and hopefully he can lock it up,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said of Buddle. “You never know what could happen. He’s been goal-dangerous all year, no question about it.”
When it came to production, Buddle was a question mark heading into the season. He scored 15 goals in 2008 but, due to injuries, dropped off to five a year ago. He entered the 2010 preseason fully healthy and scored nine goals in the first six games en route to locking down a spot on the World Cup team this summer.
Entering the final weekend, Buddle has played in 24 games, the fewest of any player in the league who has scored at least 10 goals this season.
“He’s probably played in fewer games than any of his competitors for the Golden Boot,” Arena said. “He doesn’t take penalty kicks, so he’s had some real goals. He’s really deserving of that award if he does win it.”
Added Buddle, “In my whole career, I’ve not taken penalty kicks, so I would say most all of my goals have come in the run of play. That’s not to take anything away from penalty kicks because they’re not easy. Fortunately, my goals came from the run of play and I’m very proud of that.”
And of course, having players like Landon Donovan and David Beckham has made things easier for him during his best season yet with the club.
“The team makes my job a lot easier,” Buddle said. “They find me in good spots and I’m able to score. Without them, I would say my job would be a lot harder, so I give them a lot of credit.”