By Ridge Mahoney
In a week or so, we'll know if D.C. United’s coaching staff and management believes a year-long loan for Charlie Davies makes sense.
More than a few major names have been attached, justifiably or otherwise, to MLS during the past month or so. If one-third of the players (and their agents) who have mentioned the league as a possible destination actually came here, every game would be an All-Star Game.
The two Robbies, Keane and Savage, didn’t wind up in Vancouver to the greatsurprise of very few, since Savage is a master at manipulating the media and Keane cost a fee of 1 million pounds ($1.6 million) and weekly wages of 65,000 pounds ($103,000) just to go from Tottenham to West Ham in an all-London loan deal.
But an MLS loan for Davies could be ideal, if more than a bit ironic, since he passed up an MLS contract worth about $1 million over five seasons to start his pro career in Sweden with Hammarby. His move to French club Sochaux in the summer of 2009 marked a significant step up in class, but after scoring two goals in his first eight games a car crash in Arlington, Va., while on U.S. national team duty threw his career and his future into doubt.
A lacerated bladder, a fractured right tibia and femur, a fractured elbow, facial injuries, and bleeding on the brain required months of surgeries and
rehabilitation. His zealous, desperate attempt to get fit in time for the 2010 World Cup fell well short of that ambitious goal, and in the ensuing months with Sochaux he’s played in reserve games but not for the first team.
The club has been very careful with Davies and certainly more patient than he is; one of the many issues facing D.C. United and Coach Ben Olsen if Davies signs will be to handle him wisely.
There were a lot of D.C. fans in attendance, as was I, at RFK on Oct. 15, 2009 when the U.S. played Costa Rica a day and a half after he’d been rushed to a hospital in an ambulance. In the ninth minute, fans stood and chanted his name while waving thousands of signs and placards displaying his No. 9. Assigned that number for the match, Robbie Rogers came off the bench to set up a goal that cut Costa Rica’s lead in half, and in the 95th minute Jonathan Bornstein’s header drilled his corner kick home for the equalizer in a 2-2 tie.
Along with elation and joy at securing the tie that clinched top spot in the Hexagonal, concern for Davies etched the face of every U.S. player and coach during the postgame interviews. In the long months since that memorable night, the injuries have healed though there are scars, physical and psychological, which will never fade entirely.
Resuming his pro career would greatly aid the healing process but the odds of doing that are still unknown, and his eagerness to get back into action has already boiled over several times.
Any team wants and needs players who want and need to be on the field, and so for United the monitoring of Davies’ mindset and psyche will be just as vital as his physical health. In his playing days Olsen missed the entire 2001 season through injury, and D.C. has been staunch in its support of Santino Quaranta, who fights the dark demons of substance addiction every waking hour.
As much as those fans who were on hand at RFK and have watched him in the U.S. jersey want him to play, miracles can’t be expected. This may take a long time.
United must also use its spot atop the allocation list to claim him and that’s a valuable chip to play for a team recovering from an embarrassing 2010 season. Romanticism aside, this is a gamble. Still, for him, at this point in his career, D.C. is the place to be. Cross your fingers.