Landon Donovan thinks Edson Buddle deserves a look for the U.S. training camp ahead of the World Cup, and Herculez Gomez, too.
Charlie Davies still is recovering from an October car crash and Brian Ching is out until next month with an injured hamstring, so it’s unclear who will start at forward alongside Jozy Altidore when the United States plays England in its World Cup opener on June 12.
Buddle, a forward who turns 29 on May 21, has scored all five goals in helping Donovan’s Galaxy to a 3-0 start in Major League Soccer. Buddle hasn’t played for the national team since his debut in an exhibition against Venezuela in March 2003.
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"I see it a little different probably than most people," Donovan said Wednesday. "Most people see the goal-scoring, which obviously as a forward is important. But for me, equally if not more importantly are the little things he’s doing to help our team win. And those types of things are important when you’re not scoring goals, especially. And a lot of players when they score a lot of goals think they don’t have to do those things, and he’s doing all those little things that are helping a lot."
Gomez, another 28-year-old, has eight goals in 13 games this season for Puebla in Mexico, an unexpected turnaround for a former Galaxy, Colorado and Kansas City player whose only two international appearances were in the 2007 Copa America.
Donovan doesn’t want to speak for U.S. coach Bob Bradley but says those players should be given a chance to show whether they ought to be on the 23-man roster.
"Taking a look at, absolutely. Why wouldn’t you? At this point, you would have to think everything is an option," Donovan said. "Clearly I’m not the coach and I don’t make these decisions, but I always err on the side of caution. And what I mean by that is you take the players that are one, playing, and who are playing the best at the time. And I always think that’s the best formula. Now, not everyone sees it that way, but that’s my personal opinion."
Donovan came to New York to appear with Derek Jeter, Matt Ryan and Wayne Gretzky at the Gillette-EA Sports Champions of Gaming on Xbox 360. He was to return to the Galaxy for Saturday’s game against Real Salt Lake and report to the U.S. team in mid-May ahead of exhibitions against the Czech Republic (May 25 at East Hartford, Conn.) and Turkey (May 29 at Philadelphia). World Cup teams must submit 30-man preliminary rosters to FIFA by May 11 and 23-man final rosters by June 1 – the day after the U.S. team arrives in South Africa.
In addition to Davies, who was hurt Oct. 13, and Ching, injured on April 1, several other Americans have been sidelined. Defender Oguchi Onyewu hasn’t played since tearing a knee tendon in the final World Cup qualifier on Oct. 14, and midfielder Stuart Holden has been out since breaking a leg during a challenge from Nigel de Jong during the Americans’ exhibition game at the Netherlands on March 3.
All the injuries make it appear Bradley will call more than 23 players into training camp, then cut down after the Turkey match and ahead of a June 5 exhibition against Australia at Roodepoort, South Africa.
"There’s realities that you have to look at," Donovan said. "You can’t bring in 23 guys and have five or six of them that you’re not sure about, so you need to make sure that you’re covering all your bases. Obviously, if anyone is covering all their bases it’s Bob. He knows exactly what’s going on."
Donovan said the roster was less certain even before the injuries than at similar points ahead of the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
"You can pencil in 13, 14, 15 guys," he said. "After that, there’s quite a bit of competition, which is what you want."