When Los Angeles Galaxy forward Edson Buddle was born, his father Winston, a Jamaican-born professional soccer player, gave him not only a set of extraordinary athletic genes, but also a superior soccer name in honor of Edson Arantes do Nascimento, a.k.a. Pele. With such a huge head start straight out of the gate, Edson has made it a point to uphold his legacy in a one-and-done fashion.
In 1999, his first year of college kicks, Edson led his team to the NJCAA Division I Championship—a performance good enough to immediately propel him to the professional ranks with the Long Island Rough Riders of the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League. There, in 2000, Edson netted 11 goals and had four assists, leading his team to the top of Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference. This showing was impressive enough for Edson to be selected 27th overall by the Columbus Crew in the 2001 MLS SuperDraft. After just one season in the MLS, Edson established himself as a prolific offensive weapon and one of the best young strikers in the league. Three quick seasons, three huge jumps.
After his breakout success, Edson entered a period of inactivity and sluggish development due to a series of nagging injuries. Just when the explosive striker would come back from one injury, another tweak, strain or pull would weaken him again. The string of injuries served as a wake-up call for Edson, who, as result, cranked up his training and improved his nutrition to take better care of his body.
The new strategy worked extremely well, and a healthy Edson is currently ranked among the top goal scorers in the MLS; to date, he has four career hat tricks, third most in MLS history. Last season alone, he posted two hat tricks in victories against FC Dallas and San Jose, drawing the praise and respect of new teammate David Beckham. His career average of one goal almost every three games has established Edson as one of the top offensive threats in the league and makes him a viable pick to help the U.S. National Team in the near future.
Check out what Edson tells us about dealing with injuries, scoring goals and jumping from JuCo to “Now you know!”
STACK: How have you tried to combat the kinds of injuries you’ve had in the past?
Edson Buddle: You have to do the little things, like stretching. In the morning, I like to do situps and then a morning stretch. It’s good to be a little warm when you stretch, and I want to stay consistent with that. Sometimes it’s tough, because in the morning, you’re kind of groggy and [you] just want to roll over and head to practice later. But I like to start my day off like that. I focus on my hamstrings, calves and Achilles. I’ve had tendonitis in my Achilles, so I try to lengthen those as much as possible.
I learned the importance of this [training] when I first started getting injuries. When I hurt my hip flexor, it was a big setback and learning experience for me. [My first year as a] professional, when I lived in Columbus, I was going to Wendy’s and eating cheeseburgers; [I was] trying to save money. I wasn’t developing [or] getting fit until midway through the season. That made me realize that something was wrong. I thought that if I was in a professional environment and training every day, I would get fit naturally, but it’s really about what you’re putting in your body, too.
STACK: Tell us a little bit about the mental side of dealing with an injury.
EB: The mental side of injuries can help with the physical side. You have to stay positive. People naturally tend to get down on themselves and sulk when they’re hurt; I don’t think that helps the recovery. If you stay positive and work on other things that can help you— like strengthening the areas of your body that aren’t injured—you can benefit from that once you’re 100 percent.
STACK: What’s your favorite thing about being on the pitch during a game?
EB: Being on the end of a cross or … a really good pass. When it’s just you and the goalie, it’s a lot of fun. That is something you have to develop, though. As a young kid, you have to go to camps and be around the game, then it [will] become natural for you.
STACK: What’s been your biggest on-field thrill so far?
EB: Probably winning the U.S. Open Cup with Columbus—and also scoring four goals in one game. It was against New York in 2004; it was my first hat trick and a four-goal game—something I never could’ve imagined.
STACK: What type of athlete were you back in the day?
EB: I wasn’t a phenomenal athlete; I just ran around with everyone else. I did what the other guys did and tried to fit in. When my dad was playing, the kids of his friends would always play on the side; I would play with them. My ability showed up the first time I played organized soccer, [when I was] about seven years old. I was scoring a lot of goals right off the bat, [and] that’s when my mom started keeping track of the goals I [scored] in each game. She likes stats, but I’m not too big on them.
My father was a big Pelé fan and named me after him. Pelé had great film; he’s exciting, [so] I like to go back and watch those tapes. Playing is good, but visualizing and watching other guys do it when you’re young is a big part of being an athlete and performing.
STACK: When did it finally hit you that you could take this thing pretty far?
EB: I got my first Nike package when I was 13. It was from the National Team and U.S. Soccer. We were going [on] one of our Europe trips, and they gave us running shoes—Nike Air Zooms, the green ones when they first came out. I was so thrilled about that and cherished it. I thought, “Wow, if I can keep this up, I’ll probably get some more of these.”
STACK: Tell us a about your collegiate career and how you developed into this caliber of a player.
EB: I didn’t go to a big school; I went to State Fair in Missouri. My friend in California told me about it and introduced me to the coach. I didn’t have the grades to go to a big school, so I went to a JuCo. It was beneficial for my needs to get where I needed to go. I was happy with it. It was a learning experience, because it was in the middle of Missouri, which was different from where I was from in New York. Everyone has a different path.
After college, I went to the lower Division A League. It was right across the Whitestone Bridge [from where] I lived in Westchester, New York. I was commuting back and forth to play for about a thousand bucks a month for six months. It helped my development as a player, [because] I played with grown men day in and day out at a young age, which definitely helps.