JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Edson Buddle, 29, wondered when he'd finally get the call.
That call, the one inviting him to train with the U.S. men's national team, seemed overdue - at least in the minds of those around him.
From March 29, 2003, until May 11, 2010, Buddle made no appearances for the United States, being sidelined by injuries for a good chunk of 2003 and 2004.
"At times I asked, 'Why am I not being selected?' " Buddle said Tuesday, a few hours before the team's training session at the FIFA World Cup. "But I'd just go back to working."
Even superstar teammate David Beckham, whom Buddle plays with on the Los Angeles Galaxy, told Buddle his national-team omission was not a reflection of his talent.
"He's always told me that I should be on the national team but to overlook it and not really think much of it and just say, 'Thank you,' " Buddle explained. "And it actually happened."
Buddle's story, like so many others, is a matter of timing.
U.S. coach Bob Bradley included the 6-foot-1 forward on his preliminary World Cup roster because this season Buddle was accumulating goals like baseball cards: nine in his first seven games with the Galaxy.
A week later, Bradley included Buddle on his 23-man roster and, with forward Jozy Altidore out with an ankle injury, started Buddle in Saturday's 3-1 exhibition win over Australia.
In that match, the native of New Rochelle, N.Y., scored two goals, his first in a U.S. jersey.
"Timing has a lot to do with it, the fact that he's been in top form - not just the last couple of weeks, but the last few months," said defender Jonathan Bornstein. "I definitely think he's given himself a good claim to be a starter."
Bradley has a traffic jam at forward, with Clint Dempsey, Altidore, Robbie Findley, Herculez Gomez, and Buddle.
All five have been in top form, but Bradley will likely choose two on Saturday, when the United States plays England in its World Cup opener.
"I don't know why it took him so long or why it took the coaches so long to bring him in," midfielder DaMarcus Beasley said of Buddle. "That doesn't matter now. He's here, he made the World Cup team, and he's showing that he deserves to be here and score goals at the international level."
Added Beasley: "Any time you do well with the Galaxy, with Beckham and Landon Donovan behind you, you're going to get seen. And he's done that."
Buddle's effectiveness comes from his size and strength. It's difficult to push him off the ball.
"His ability to score goals and be that strong presence on the field, I think, is what has gotten him here in such a short period of time," Bornstein said. "I think you saw a little bit of that in the Australia game."
Dempsey said that Buddle "has always been a player that has gone on streaks in the MLS."
"He's had his ups and downs," Dempsey said. "He's put himself in a position to be fighting for a starting spot."
When asked about starting against England, Buddle said that's "definitely something I want to prepare myself for."
Buddle considers Beckham not just a deliverer of perfect passes but also a mentor of sorts.
He will not get to face his mentor on the field, however. Beckham will miss the World Cup as he recovers from a torn left Achilles tendon.
Read Kate Fagan's
World Cup blog,
Kickin' It, every day
from South Africa, at www.philly.com/worldcup.
U.S. vs. England
Saturday at 2 p.m. (6ABC)