IRENE, South Africa - Edson Buddle can stop thanking David Beckham every time he tells him he should be playing for the United States.
It took seven years for the 29-year-old striker, named after Brazil great Pele, to make his second U.S. appearance last month but with nine goals in nine games this season for LA Galaxy, Buddle has found himself back in the national squad.
Playing with England midfielder Beckham at the Galaxy has really helped his game.
"He's always told me I should be in the national team but they are kind of overlooking me ... and would say 'thank you' and now it's actually happened," he told reporters on Tuesday, his big Beckham-like earring sparkling in his left ear.
"I was quite a fan of his. Growing up and seeing him play I have a lot of respect for him and he's given good advice as far as staying involved in the game. You kind of want to impress him just having him in training."
But had Beckham, who will miss the World Cup through injury, given away any tips on how to beat England in their first Group C game on Saturday?
"Definitely not!" Buddle laughed.
The forward scored two goals in just his third U.S. appearance, a friendly against Australia last week.
"It feels a little surreal. I'm just trying not to let it overwhelm me, I just want to feel like I belong here," he said.
"I knew eventually if I played well I'd be in."
Unused to all the attention, he walked sheepishly towards the table, perhaps noticing there were just two reporters waiting to speak to him while dozens crowded round his team-mates.
He muttered 'It's my first time doing this', with the press officer reassuring him 'Don't worry, there will be plenty of people coming to talk to you."
Some of the forward's team mates have been on the receiving end of Buddle's good form this season in the MLS, with defender Jonathan Bornstein coming off badly.
"I had the privilege of playing against him as a centre-back this year, man-marking him. My biggest thing with him was that he is so strong, just a very big physical presence and also he scored two goals against us," said Bornstein, who plays for city rivals Chivas.
Buddle said he had never felt the burden of his name weighing on his shoulders since his football-playing father named him after Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele.
"Growing up in the United States, not too many people know who Edson was," said Buddle.
"There was no pressure or anything like that. I'm not Brazilian so I haven't got that pressure. I couldn't really argue with my dad when I came out into the world so my dad stuck with it and the name comes from my dad being a fan of Pele."comments