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Loss of Edson Buddle, Cobi Jones leaves the Galaxy with work to do

Buddle, the hotshot striker from last season, is leaving for FC Ingolstadt 04 of the German second division. Jones is leaving as the assistant coach to become associate director of soccer for the New York Cosmos.

January 10, 2011|Grahame L. Jones | On Soccer

"Change is good," former Galaxy player and general manager Alexi Lalas once proclaimed, and change is most definitely headed in the Galaxy's direction.

On Monday, in two unrelated moves, Edson Buddle, the hotshot Galaxy striker from last season, and Cobi Jones, the face of the Major League Soccer team since its 1996 formation, both said their farewells.

Buddle, 29, left because he was a free agent coming off the best season in his career and realized it was now or never if he wanted to play in Europe. So he turned his back on his $188,448 Galaxy salary and accepted what is believed to be a more financially lucrative offer from FC Ingolstadt 04 of the German second division.

The obscure Bavarian club, located near Munich, has never been in the top flight of the Bundesliga and currently languishes in next-to-last place in its division, having won only three of its 17 games this season.

Buddle, who has scored 90 goals in 231 MLS regular-season games, including 42 in 87 regular-season games with the Galaxy, is supposed to be the player riding to Ingolstadt's rescue. That's what the German club hopes.

Jones left as the Galaxy's assistant coach to become associate director of soccer for the New York Cosmos, which is on course to form a team and join MLS within a year or two. "We are very focused on trying to have a second team in New York, a rival for the Red Bulls," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said last summer.

Buddle's decision to leave, meanwhile, causes more of a headache than the departures of Jones and of fellow assistant Trevor James, who left last month to join the expansion Portland Timbers.

Suddenly, forwards are thin on the ground in Los Angeles and signing veteran Colombian striker Juan Pablo Angel, whose rights were acquired by the Galaxy in the MLS reentry draft after he was released by the Red Bulls, is a necessity, not an option.

Even if that comes about, the Galaxy will still need another reliable goal-scorer to play with Angel when Landon Donovan is with the U.S. national team.

Small wonder Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena is scratching his head. He knows that the only other forwards on his roster, Mike Magee and Bryan Jordan, are role players, not first-choice starters. And since there is little chance of a top-class striker being available in Thursday's MLS draft, Arena will either have to trade for one or find and buy one.

But with Donovan, David Beckham and, probably Angel, taking up the designated player slots and a huge chunk of the salary budget, the options are limited.

Buddle's departure, two weeks before the start of training camp, leaves the Galaxy with a mountain of work. It has to reach agreement with Angel, find replacements for Jones and Buddle, and resolve the ongoing Beckham loan saga.

On Monday, Beckham underwent a physical at Tottenham Hotspur, and the midfielder will start training with the London club on Tuesday. It is supposed to be for a month, but Spurs want Beckham to play for them, so a loan deal is still being thrashed out. The sticking point appears to be time as well as money. Tottenham wants Beckham to stay until the MLS season begins on March 15.

Beckham is so desperate to play again in the English Premier League that reports from London on Monday suggested that he is willing to take a pay cut to do so. A deal could come this week, ahead of Spurs' home game Sunday against Beckham's former club, Manchester United, but don't count on it.

If the Galaxy brings in new players, especially front-runners, there is even more need than usual for playmaker Beckham to be in Los Angeles and training here so that he builds an on-field understanding with the forwards.

Given all this, Arena probably paid scant attention Monday to the festivities in Switzerland, where year-end FIFA awards were dished out for 2010.

The player-of-the-year award went to Argentina's Lionel Messi, the coaching award to Portugal's Jose Mourinho and, on the women's side, to Brazil's Marta and to Germany's Silvia Neid.

But all the glitter in Zurich could not penetrate the cloud of suspicion and mistrust that hangs over FIFA, the sport's international governing body, these days.

Over the weekend, David Cameron, the British prime minister, called it a "murky" organization, and German lawyer Guenter Hirsch quit FIFA's ethics committee, claiming FIFA has "no real interest" in reforming its ways.

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