After a stellar year in 2010 which included a career-high in goal scoring for the Los Angeles Galaxy and a spot on the USA’s 2010 FIFA World Cup roster, Edson Buddle chose to leave a comfortable situation in MLS and test himself and his talents overseas. Quite the opposite of comfortable, Buddle signed with FC Ingolstadt in the German Second Bundesliga that at the time was facing relegation. Rising to the challenge, he has appeared in 13 of 14 matches for which he was available, and his arrival coincided with a resurgence that has seen the team go unbeaten in their last eight. Following the results of last weekend, Ingolstadt officially secured their place in the league next season, and ussoccer.com caught up with Buddle to reflect on his experience.
When you arrived in January you were inserted into the team straight away. Were you surprised?
Edson Buddle: “Coming in I expected to play because they had shown a lot of interest and I knew where they were in the table. Before I got there, they told me they need attacking players and I would play right away.”
What was your initial reaction to the level of play?
EB: “I feel like the games are very similar to MLS. The difference is training. We train for almost two hours a day, and it’s pretty high energy the whole time. Going into next year’s preseason I’ll be aware of that and make sure I’m physically prepared. It’s been a little difficult getting settled off the field: figuring out the shortest routes driving, learning how to read labels at the supermarket, and getting all my stuff out of suitcases, that sort of thing. This week I’m finally finishing!”
With all the intense training and matches, do you feel fitter?
EB: “We’ll see tomorrow. We have a fitness test! I’m probably a little fitter. I came in right after the end of the MLS season, so it was a little tough on my body. I’ve been very conscious about trying to eat right and get the proper rest.”
You scored a goal in your first game. Not a bad way to break the ice …
EB: “For me it was a good feeling. Going into a new situation, you want to do well, and as a forward you want to score goals. To me it showed that I wasn’t timid about playing in Europe. It definitely helped make it a smoother transition.”
Has your game changed?
EB: “I was told coming in not to change things up. I didn’t want to get here and all of a sudden change my game. Here these guys play out of tight spaces better than where I was back home, especially in training, so I’m more conscious about being tactically aware both offensively and defensively. That makes you a little bit sharper. Sometimes when you are in one place for a long time, things can get repetitive and it’s easy to fall into a comfort zone. Being here is something new, and you have to be alert every day.”
You chose to join a club that was fighting relegation. What was it like coming into that situation?
EB: “Coming in I saw that the team spirit was down. Some of the guys were asking me why I would come here and leave a great situation in Los Angeles. I wanted to bring a good attitude and a good spirit to the group. There was a new coach and a few other new players that came in, and with the hard trainings it really brought us together as a team. I’ve felt like we have been competitive in every game and deserved the results. The ball has bounced our way, and the hard work has paid off.”
The team has been on a great run recently and had been inching towards safety in the table. Were you keeping an eye on all the other results or were you just worried about your team’s performance?
EB: “Honestly, I’ve just been focused on our games and trying to get maximum points because we’ve been fighting so hard. We’ve had an unbeaten streak going, and I’ve stayed focused on that. The night before our last game, we were watching the other league games in the lobby as a team. That’s when I learned that if both Osnabrück and Rot-Weiss Oberhausen lost that we would be safe.”
ussoccer.com: Describe the scene when the team was finally safe from relegation.
EB: “The night before a game we usually stay in a hotel. We went down to the bar as a team, and the whole group was on the edge of their seats hoping those two teams would lose. When the games ended, everybody was hugging and cheering. The coach was really happy, and they were singing songs. They were all in German and I didn’t understand the words, but it was the first time I experienced something like that, so I just went along with it! It was very exciting to be a part of.”
A relegation fight is obviously tough on the players and staff, but you also say that it had a huge impact on the community as well.
EB: “A couple games after I got here, some people from the front office came and spoke to the team. They were explaining how important it was for the team to stay up, and that a lot of peoples’ jobs were on the line, from the front office to locals working at the stadium. We have a brand new facility, and they have invested a lot of money into trying to build a more competitive team. The club gives everyone from the owner to the people on the street something to cheer for and really brings the community together. It’s pretty special to see how much it means to everyone.”
After everything you have experienced there, are you happy with the decision to move to Germany?
EB: “I’m happy with the decision. I’m very positive about the direction the team is going, and I like it here. It’s a chance to learn a new language and have a new life experience. It’s not always good times, to be fair. Hopefully in the end it makes me a better person.”