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Galaxy’s Edson Buddle off to a quick start

The biggest smile on the Galaxy training field these days — and indeed on game days too — is the one that lights up the face of Edson Buddle.

The 28-year-old Los Angeles player is off to the fastest start by a Galaxy forward since Guatemalan striker Carlos Ruiz kept the Home Depot Center scoreboard folk busy.

Going into Saturday night’s game against Real Salt Lake, the defending Major League Soccer champion, Buddle had scored all five goals in the Galaxy’s first three matches of 2010.

He is the first Los Angeles player to score in each of the season’s first three games since Ruiz in 2004 and is well on his way to his personal goal for the year.

“Twenty would be nice,” Buddle said. “I’ve never got that many.”

In eight seasons in MLS, including stints with the Columbus Crew, the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC, the most goals Buddle has scored in a single year was the 15 he bagged for the Galaxy in 2008, his second year with the club.

This season, though, he looks ready to surpass that figure.

“He’s certainly been opportunistic in finishing off his chances,” said Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena. “He’s come into this season better prepared physically and mentally than ever before, and that’s important.

“In the three seasons I’ve had with Edson, he’s never had this kind of preparation. He is a good player, but he’s never consistently showed that.

“He’s actually one of the best professionals I’ve ever been around. He takes great care of himself. He was in almost every day in the off-season.

“He likes to compete. He’s a great competitor. I think he’s really enjoying himself.”

Buddle scored the only Galaxy goal in a season-opening win over the New England Revolution, got two more against Chivas USA and then scored two on the road at the Houston Dynamo as the Galaxy shut out its first three opponents.

His 78 MLS goals include 30 for Los Angeles, tying him with Ecuador’s Eduardo “El Tanque” Hurtado as the team’s fifth all-time leading goal scorer. Only Cobi Jones (with 70 goals), Landon Donovan (64), Ruiz (51) and Mauricio Cienfuegos (35) are ahead of him.

What’s the difference in 2010?

“The ball’s going in the back of the net, that’s the main thing,” Buddle said. “I’ve had good years before this, but this year I’m happy to be scoring again.”

The fact that Arena has not tinkered with a team that made it all the way to the MLS final last year has helped.

“Being settled, with Bruce giving me a little confidence and saying that I’m going to be here, really helps,” Buddle said. “Being familiar with the players around me and comfortable with the guys up front, we’re able to find each other much easier.

“Once I’m on the field I’m able to get opportunities, and it’s up to me to put away my chances.”

Donovan said it is more than simply goals that have been apparent in Buddle’s play.

“As a forward, goals come and go, and obviously he’s in a good place right now with that,” Donovan said. “But he’s also doing all the other stuff that top forwards around the world do, and that’s helping us a lot. He’s chasing guys and he’s into the game for 90 minutes.”

Some have suggested that U.S. Coach Bob Bradley should take a closer look at Buddle before selecting his World Cup roster, even though Buddle’s one and only game for the national team came in 2003.

“Why wouldn’t you?” Donovan said. “It doesn’t mean he should go, but he should absolutely get looked at. Seriously.”

Buddle’s reaction?

“His word says a lot, so we’ll see how that goes.”

grahame.jones@latimes.com


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