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New motto: The more forwards the better
by Ridge Mahoney, February 2nd, 2012 12:47AM
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TAGS:  los angeles galaxy, mls, vancouver whitecaps


[MLS SPOTLIGHT] At least two Western Conference teams are of the mind that the more forwards on hand, the better. On the same day the Vancouver Whitecaps announced it had concluded negotiations with Camilo Sanvezzo on a new contract came word that Edson Buddle, who left the Galaxy a year ago to sign with FC Ingolstadt of the German Bundesiga 2, had returned to the fold.

The moves for both teams make sense. Despite rolling to the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup last year, the Galaxy didn’t overrun teams, and instead ground out a lot of 1-0 wins. In Vancouver’s expansion season, it scored the fewest goals in MLS. Adding forwards doesn’t guarantee more goals, but having more options and greater depth up top are elements highly prized by head coaches. They also give said coaches a bit more value in the trade market.

Los Angeles has lost only Jovan Kirovski (retired to become an assistant coach) from its attacking corps after winning MLS Cup last November, though its attack is currently shorn of Premier League loanees Landon Donovan (Everton) and Robbie Keane (Aston Villa). Though Everton manager David Moyes has already said there’s no chance of Donovan’s loan being extended, no such declaration has been forthcoming from Villa counterpart Alex McLeish.  

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena believes Buddle and Keane can form a partnership up top which can be supplemented by other players as needed. Buddle can also replace Keane during the Irishman’s absences to play for his country, which could include as much as a month of the MLS season in June during the European Championships. The Galaxy also added veteran Pat Noonan, who can also play forward, in re-entry draft he can play forward also.

Buddle scored 42 goals in 87 regular season games for the Galaxy from 2007 to 2010, and hit a career high 17 goals in that final season before leaving for Germany. He signed an 18-month contract as a free agent in January, 2011, and scored on his debut. In 14 games he scored three goals as the club avoided relegation to the German regional leagues.

This season, he scored six goals in 17 games for Ingolstadt, which at the winter break was tied third-from-bottom, clear out of the relegation zone only by goal difference. For the last game before the break, Coach Tomas Oral excluded him from the game-day roster, and he trained with Everton last month while he waited for his official release from the club.

The Galaxy is looking for an experienced international defender to replace Omar Gonzalez, who will miss most of the season recovering from a torn ACL suffered during his first day of training with German club Nuremberg last month. By bringing back Buddle it has stockpiled additional firepower that will be valuable if the team struggles to replicate last year’s stingy defense (a league-low 28 goals conceded in 34 games).

The ‘Caps, who sent allocation money to Philadelphia in exchange for Sebastien Le Toux, look to be locked in a logjam of myriad frontline talents: Camilo, Le Toux, Eric Hassli, Omar Salgado, Lee Nguyen, Long Tan, Atiba Harris, and rookie Darren Maddocks, selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the SuperDraft last month. Camilo and Hassli combined for 22 goals last year, but as a team the ‘Caps managed just 35.

Camilo and Nguyen, as well as Davide Chiumiento, can also play in midfield, and they may have to, given the competition for spots up front.  Le Toux, who today flew to Arizona to join his new teammates, is first choice to partner Hassli up front. “I think Eric's best quality is to play with his back to goal,” Vancouver coach Martin Rennie said to The Province newspaper. “Sebastien's best quality is making runs off the ball.

“We're really pleased to have added him to our group. In the last two years, he's been one of the top scorers, but more than that, he brings a great work ethic and he's a great team guy.”

He and Buddle also significantly enhance the attacking prowess of the teams that finished top and bottom in the overall standings last year, and increase pressure on those in-between.

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