Photo by Cosmic Fox Media / Courtesy of Westchester Flames
Former MLS champion and World Cup soccer player Edson Buddle grooms the next generation of top players from Port Chester.
Don’t be surprised if the name Edson Buddle rings a bell. One of only 11 Major League Soccer players in history to score 100 regular-season goals, Buddle is known for taking the MVP title as champion of the Western Conference during his time on the LA Galaxy and representing the U.S. in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Today, the Port Chester native coaches the USL League Two soccer team the Westchester Flames, alongside his father, Winston. We caught up with the soccer star to get the scoop on his new life as Coach Buddle.
Tell us about your childhood in Westchester.
I was born in White Plains but grew up in Port Chester for the first portion of my life. I then moved to New Rochelle. When my parents split up, I moved back to Port Chester. My mom eventually bought a home in Mount Vernon during my junior year of high school, but I continued to attend Port Chester High.… If I had to sum up my growing up experience in Westchester, I would say it was very diverse, competitive, and scenic. You have a little taste of everything here. I moved around quite a bit, and today, I have a greater appreciation for the caliber of people who live in Westchester.
“I find my life’s purpose in young people who aspire and desire to play soccer.”
— Edson Buddle
How did you first become interested in soccer?
My parents put me in a summer camp at an early age. I’ve always gravitated toward sports, just being a boy, or it could be in my DNA. My dad played pro soccer in Greece and the NASL. He would take me everywhere. So, my foundational years were filled with seeing my dad and company prepare, play, and enjoy “the beautiful game.” This is how I developed passion for soccer: organically.
How did these early interests eventually lead to your becoming a USSF player and MLS Cup champ?
Once I began to compete, I quickly realized I could play with the best. Being fit is the ultimate high. Everything else falls short of being fit. If you ask my mom if I ever refused to go to training, she’ll tell you the answer is no. I never gave up. It’s all trial and error. There were injuries, tears, joy, camaraderie with the players, and winning championships. Eventually, you become obsessed.
What did that period mean to you, and how do you feel it informs your work now?
Playing soccer is my passion, but the journey wasn’t about me. My playing experience was for the players I am coaching now. I find my life’s purpose in young people who aspire and desire to play soccer. Also, I have a wealth of experience that I’m eager to share.
Why did you return to Westchester, and what’s it like, working with your dad?
I returned to Westchester to be the head coach of the Westchester Flames [USL2]. My dad’s soccer school, Golden Touch Soccer, has partnered with the Westchester Flames. It’s great to be home and see him every other day. I’ve been on the road for a very long time. My dad, Winston Buddle, coaches kids from 4 to 13 years old at the club. These years are crucial for development. [My father] brings … his wealth of knowledge and is truly a master at teaching the game during those tender, early years.
Is being a coach as rewarding as being a player?
Yes! As a coach, you have to do so much behind the scenes. Today, I have new appreciation for all the workers in the office who made it easy for me to prepare and play. It’s a whole new grind.
How are you faring post-pandemic, and what lies ahead for you and the Flames?
COVID has been challenging for everyone, especially with all the restrictions. Troy Bilyeu, our admin and co-owner, has played a vital role in helping us navigate this process. Ahead, I would like to master my craft, coaching within the club, win, put together a competitive team, improve the overall club, bring awareness to the Westchester Flames within the community, help each player reach his or her maximum potential, and grow our brand of soccer, as well as USL2.