Forward Edson Buddle, heading the ball against the Seattle Sounders two… (Otto Greule Jr. / Getty Images )
The Galaxy lost the last Major Soccer League match Edson Buddle played in.
That was 17 months ago in the MLS playoffs at the Home Depot Center. And heading into the first match of a new season Saturday, the Galaxy hadn't lost at home since. In fact, the team has hardly lost at all, cruising to its first MLS title in six seasons last year while Buddle toiled in relative anonymity for a second-division club in Germany.
Yet if Buddle could do it all over again, he would.
"Yeah, I've thought about it," says Buddle, a fan favorite when he led the Galaxy in scoring in 2010. "But I got piece of mind going over there. And I learned a lot. I wouldn't trade that."
What he'd like to learn this year is how it feels to win a championship, something he got a start on Saturday night when the Galaxy opened defense of its MLS Cup against Real Salt Lake at the Home Depot Center. (For results of the match, go to latimes.com.)
And his teammates, Buddle says, are equally as motivated.
"All the guys are hungry because they want to repeat. They don't want the championship taken away," he says. "I'm definitely hungry for winning the championship. I haven't won it before."
Buddle admits his year in Europe didn't go as planned — but for reasons largely beyond his control. He turned down a raise from the Galaxy to sign a more lucrative deal with FC Ingolstadt, from whom he scored in his first game. He had a pair of multi-goal games last fall, but with the Bavarian club languishing at the bottom of the standings Buddle said management decided to change direction, adopting a more defensive style he didn't complement.
So when he was cut loose with six months left on his contract, one of the first teams he talked to was his old one.
"The opportunity to the come back to MLS presented itself. And coming back to L.A.? I wouldn't go anywhere else," he says. "And them wanting me, it made me feel even better."
For the Galaxy, the addition of Buddle — whose 90 goals in 10 seasons ranks eighth in MLS history — makes one of the league's most potent offenses even better. And that would be true even if Buddle never scores again. That's because the physical 6-foot-1 forward primarily will be charged with occupying the opposing team's center backs to clear space for Irish star Robbie Keane, one of the league's premier strikers.
Keane and Buddle are still getting to know one another, on and off the field. But Buddle says he's encouraged by the way they played together in last Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League match in Toronto.
"We linked up pretty well," the 30-year-old says. "We're going to get better the more games we play."
In the eyes of at least one teammate, however, Buddle has already proven to be pretty good.
"It's great to have Edson back," midfielder David Beckham says. "He showed in Toronto what he brings to the team. And the way he works, the way he plays, it's great for any team."