Photo credit: Nick Koza for SentinelIn a year of jaw-dropping and unimaginable performances, Herculez Gomez and Edson Buddle got their just desserts.
Gomez and Buddle were named to the 30-man US roster for the upcoming World Cup training camp, scheduled to begin May 17 in Princeton, N.J. Both players have enjoyed red-hot showings in 2010, Gomez for Mexican side Puebla, and Buddle with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
But now the duo will have a chance to state their respective case for inclusion on the World Cup roster.
"It's exciting, especially considering where I was four months ago, five months ago," Gomez said after Chivas USA training on Tuesday. "It's all pretty crazy."
A glance at each players' statistics in 2010 suggests that Bradley made a logical choice to include the pair.
Gomez became the first American to lead a foreign league in goals, netting 10 for Puebla in the Bicentenario 2010 season, and won the scoring crown on a tiebreaker.
Buddle, meanwhile, has an MLS-high nine goals and has already had four multi-goal efforts through eight games this season.
But Buddle and Gomez were nowhere near any conversation that included anything about the World Cup roster before their incendiary starts to 2010.
"Nothing happens before the time," Buddle said. "Right now it's happened and who knows why I never got called in before. Timing is everything and maybe it's my time to show what I could do."
Bradley included a total of six forwards on the 30-man roster, and all have more history with the US than Buddle and Gomez. Jozy Altidore helped the Americans reach the Confederations Cup 2009 final, Brian Ching and Eddie Johnson were each on the 2006 World Cup roster, and Robbie Findley started against the Netherlands on March 3.
Gomez played in two 2007 Copa AmÃ©rica games, coming off the bench against Argentina and starting against Colombia, but apparently didn't impress enough to get a return call. His following seasons with Colorado and Kansas City - and diminishing offensive output - contributed to his falling off Bradley's map.
Buddle's history is even more obscure. He's played all of 10 minutes with the US national team, coming on as a late substitute in a 2-0 win over Venezuela in March 2003. Ironically, the lineup included current Galaxy teammates Chris Klein, Jovan Kirovski and Landon Donovan, with Bruce Arena serving as coach - Kirovski and Donovan scored the goals.
What mattered most to U.S. coach Bob Bradley, however, seems to be form and production.
"Both Edson and Herculez have had a very good season," Bradley said in a conference call. "Both have helped their teams a great deal. Edson has been the hottest goal scorer in MLS and has helped the Galaxy get off to a great start. Herculez was an important player with Puebla and scored a lot of goals. We feel that both of them have shown enough for us to take a look at them as we start the camp."
Even though he had a dream season with Puebla, Gomez was not counting himself as part of the 30-man roster. He started training with Chivas USA after the Mexican league season ended in hopes of keeping his World Cup dream alive.
"I know there's been a lot of talk, but I still kind of didn't expect it," Gomez said. "I'm very honored and privileged, and I know I'm in a position where plenty of players would love to be, so I'm definitely grateful for that."
In fact, word that he made the roster came during a practice session and caught him off-guard.
"I was in training doing a possession drill... and [Chivas USA coach] Martin [Vasquez] pulled me over and said: '[Assistant coach] Kevin [Espinoza] just received a phone call from Pam Perkins of U.S. Soccer, and you're on the list.' Inside I was like: 'That's awesome!'"
Buddle, meanwhile, said he had known for a few days about his roster inclusion. Still, he didn't consider himself part of the team until he actually got the word.
"I'm not an overconfident person. I like to see things to believe it. I'm not going to hear things to believe it," Buddle said. "A promise is comfort to a fool, they say, and I'm happy that it came out now and I'm a part of this experience."