Never Say Die: The Charlie Davies Story
By Alex Fairchild
The United States had no points going into its final group stage match with Egypt at the 2009 Confederations Cup. Against one of the tournament's most exciting teams, they would need a boatload of goals. If that was not a big enough obstacle to overcome, Brazil would have to beat Italy by 3 for the Americans to have a chance to advance.
On 21 minutes, America's speedy No. 9 gave the Stars and Stripes momentum. Jozy Altidore's cross pin-balled between a pair of Egyptian defenders, their keeper, and one Charlie Davies. It appeared that he would not score. The angle was too tight and the ball was trickling over the byline. Yet this representative of the Red, White and Blue would not give up. His left foot saved the ball, and his right-footed effort hit the keeper, deflecting into the net. The goal gave a 1-0 lead to the Americans and just like that, it was game on. Davies would not know it at the time, but his grit would give the USA a path to the Confederations Cup Final.
As a youngster, Davies played for Brooks School, a prestigious preparatory school an hour north of Boston, Massachusetts. At the North Andover school, he was a four year standout and Independent School League record holder in goals and points.
Upon his arrival at Boston College, Davies made an immediate impact as a freshman. Leading the team with 9 goals, his career in the NCAA was off to an excellent start. The Big East Rookie of the Year in 2004 looked to take his game to new heights in his sophomore year, but that was not meant to be, as he was sidelined for the year after the team's season opener, due to injury. However, Davies would not quit. He fought back and had an excellent junior year, scoring 15 times in 16 appearances, before signing a contract with Club Hammarby IF of the Swedish Premier Division.
He developed further at Hammarby, before hitting the international stage in South Africa. Davies was a star in that tournament, as he forged a strike tandem with Jozy Altidore. In doing so, the forward earned a shot in France. Playing for FC Sochaux in Ligue 1 was a massive step for Davies's 2010 World Cup preparations.
After a strong start in France, he returned to the USA for its final World Cup Qualifying match against Costa Rica. Just days before the game, Davies was out with friends at the Shadow Room, a DC area nightclub. A deadly car accident, that night, saw Davies spend days in an intensive care unit. US Soccer's website says the player suffered a, "lacerated bladder, fractured right tibia and femur, a fractured elbow, and facial injuries."
Support for Davies was overwhelming. Fans sent him e-mails in bulk and at the Costa Rica match, Yanks held up No. 9 placards in the game's 9th minute. It was one of the football's most touching displays. That night represents Davies quite well. A scrappy, come from behind result was earned by his compatriots. Down 2-0 with under 20 minutes to play, the Americans clawed back the goals required for a point. After using up all their subs, Oguchi Onyewu was stretchered off late adding to America's woes. With only 10 men on the pitch, it was left to Jonathan Bornstein's 95th minute effort to ensure the USA finish top of its group. It was a win for Charlie's boys, who wore his name and number under their jerseys.
In the hospital, many doubted Davies would be able to recover from such severe injuries in a mere 7 months to make the country's World Cup squad. After intense rehabilitation, Davies nearly found his way onto the US's World Cup roster, but was cut by Bob Bradley. Over the next few days, social media lit up in criticism of the manager.
After facing difficulties at Sochaux, the club loaned him to DC United in 2011. It was an ironic return for Davies, who would play for the city in which is life was altered. In his debut, he scored twice. His post-game interview was extraordinarily emotional, as his comeback was now in full-swing. Davies's loan expired after he helped the team gain the league's last playoff spot. DC United did not extend the loan or sign the player, so he headed back to Sochaux.
The French club then let Davies go to Denmark's Randers FC on a free transfer. However, Davies has not worked out since moving. He has not scored for his new club.
Randers have replicated Sochaux's move in sending Davies back to MLS for a reboot. Over the next few months, Davies will look to get the New England Revolution into the playoffs, just as he did DC United. However, this time, his return has a very special feeling. New England for most of his life has been his home. Davies's comeback has come to a standstill and perhaps a homecoming will be just the fix. A boost of confidence through a decent stint at the MLS outfit could propel Davies.
Nearing his prime, the striker is 27 years of age and he must make the most of his time at Gillette Stadium if he hopes to get back into consideration for the national team. But if he does not, one thing is for sure - even though many believe the ball, that is Davies's career, is rolling out, it has looked that way before. He could have given up after being injured in college and not a soul would have criticized him for retiring in winter 2009, nor would many attack him for letting that ball roll out in Rustenberg, because each time, Davies plays on.
That should not surprise us though, because Charlie Davies does not quit.