Reporting from East Hartford, Conn. — Edson Buddle’s lower lip was split, stitched up hastily in the locker room so that he could get back on the field and continue tilting at windmills and chasing unicorns.
It was all a dream, wasn’t it? After all, how likely was it that a player with a mere 11 minutes of U.S. national team experience seven years ago would be seriously considered for the World Cup?
How likely was it that a player who had not played a single qualifying game for Germany 2006, let alone South Africa 2010, would even be looked at.
Buddle was not even a blip on the U.S. radar, and as recently as March people would have laughed at the very idea.
They weren’t laughing Tuesday night, however. The Galaxy striker played 45 minutes for the American side in a 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic in front of 36,218 at Rentschler Field and came away confident.
He might not make the 23-man roster that Coach Bob Bradley will announce Wednesday morning on ESPN, but Buddle knows he gave it everything he had. That, he said, is enough for him.
“I leave it in God’s hands and I can walk and say I gave it my all,” the forward said. “I’m pretty confident that I gave it my best. It’s up to Bob. I probably made his decision a little tougher, but we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Buddle, who turned 29 on Friday, managed to get involved in the scoring Tuesday, providing the assist on the first U.S. goal.
It came in the 17th minute, when midfielder Stuart Holden took a free kick on the left and curled the ball into the Czech penalty area.
Petr Cech, the top goalkeeper in England this season and winner of the Premier League title and the F.A. Cup with Chelsea, came out to get it but was a bit late in doing so.
The ball ricocheted off a clump of players, the last of these being Buddle, who got his head to the ball at the same time as he took a shoulder in the face, splitting his lip. The ball fell to Maurice Edu, who poked it into the net.
“He did a good job getting up and contesting for the ball,” Bradley said of Buddle. “That type of presence, that type of ability to get into good spots and contest as a forward is something he’s done well with the Galaxy this year.”
The U.S. got another goal in the second half, on a header by Herculez Gomez, who also is chasing one of the forward spots on the team, but the Czechs got goals from Tomas Sivok, Jan Polak, Martin Fenin and Tomas Necid and won going away.
The result was not important, however. On Tuesday, it was all about individual performance and effort. The players were out to secure a seat on the plane to South Africa and everything else was secondary.
Buddle said he knew he had limited time to prove he belongs on the flight. The sense of urgency was something all the players felt.
“Absolutely, it’s been like that all week in training, even though it’s been more [about] fitness and less [about] playing,” Buddle said. “I wanted to show I want to be on this team.”
Holden said he believed Buddle had staked his claim.
“He holds the ball well,” Holden said. “He’s got good feet and he’s got pace to get in behind [defenders]. He’s done some great things in training camp and obviously he’s shown a bit of that tonight and caused problems for the Czechs. He’s a good player and he’s a scoring threat.”
Whether he’s a World Cup player will be known very soon.