Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Davies scored twice before injury
Once thought impossible, the reality of Charlie Davies making Bob Bradley's 23 man roster for this summer's World Cup appears to be coming to fruition thanks to the American striker's remarkable recovery.
The well-chronicled fatal auto accident that involved Davies on October 13th, two days before the US' final World Cup qualifying match versus Costa Rica, all but dismissed his chances of traveling to South Africa in June.
Yet just over five months later, the Manchester, New Hampshire native is now back at French Ligue 1 club Sochaux and says that he expects to be back training in full with his teammates next month after he spends the next three weeks doing individual work.
"Right now I'm training individually so this week it is all about fitness," Davies told YA Wednesday. "I ran three miles on Monday and four miles today. Next week I'll be doing ball work and then the week after I'll do both fitness and ball work and by the fourth week hope to be back training with my teammates."
The looming question for both Sochaux and US national team fans is the exact timeframe Davies is facing before he makes a return to game action.
As badly as the former Hammarby man wants to return to the field, he cautions that it is still uncertain when his coach Francis Gillot will be able to slot him in the team's gameday roster.
"The only thing that has been discussed between me and the coach is just how quickly can I get back," explained Davies. "There isn't an exact plan of when I'll be back playing in matches."
Another point of concern that has been voiced by fans is how Davies will react in a game-like atmosphere where he will be expected to make sharp cuts and absorb tackles from defenders.
Luckily for the former Boston College standout, the early returns on his technical skills have been very good and if anything, he plans to welcome the first solid tackle he sustains from an opponent.
"I had a technical session yesterday and I was able to do all the things I used to do technically so that was good," he continued. "I'm really not worried about cutting or my agility on the field. "
"I feel like those are my strengths. I'm just really curious to see where I will be from a playing perspective overall."
"I'm not worried about being tackled...I have metal in my legs!" he chuckled. "I'll know that I've made it back when I absorb that first tackle and I'm actually looking forward to getting that first hit and being knocked down and getting right back up."
Once Davies returns to the field for Sochaux, all American eyes will be focused on Bradley and whether he plans to include Davies on his World Cup roster.
Even though the two have not spoken in several months, Davies feels like there is an understanding between player and coach and hints that as long as he sees game action for Sochaux before the end of the season, that there should be nothing to hold Bradley back from selecting him.
"I haven't talked with Bob since he came out to see me in Los Angeles after my second surgery," Davies noted. "It was a good talk and one that we had to have. He wanted to see how I was doing and how my attitude was."
"We talked about how I broke curfew and if I am learning from this experience. When we were done he said that they'll be closely monitoring my progress and so we pretty much left it at that. For me, what I took from it was that as long as I get back on the field and I'm playing, it's a done deal."
One of the most striking things that occurred in the aftermath of last fall's accident was the outpouring of condolences and empathy from fans, opponents, former teammates and especially Davies' USMNT teammates.
The ex-Allsvenskan star reveals that seeing his fellow national team members in the days after gave him the boost he needed to begin plotting his recovery.
"The contact from the guys on the national team is what meant the most to me," Davies admits. "Robbie Rogers and Gooch were the first ones to visit me in the hospital. I was so happy to see them. Other guys like Carlos, Clint, Landon, Mo, Jozy... Every player reached out to me and I've been talking with all of them throughout my recovery."
"It was all hard to take at first. I wasn't embarrassed by all the attention I was getting, but I was embarrassed that I let my teammates down just two days before the Costa Rica match. That's what hurt the most."
"So I just wanted to show everyone that I wanted to get back and was going to work my hardest to do it. This is my way of making amends to my teammates and coaches."
While sidelined, the Granite State native has made the most of his time away from the field by studying video of his opponents.
Davies says that initially it was hard to watch any soccer at all, but now he continuously looks at film of English, Algerian and Slovenian defenders and believes that ultimately he will come back as a smarter player.
"It took me two months to just watch the US-Costa Rica match," said Davies of his video studies. "It was really hard and painful to watch soccer at first, but by the time the World Cup draw came around, I had made big leaps in my recovery and then I started feeling like, 'OK, I can be a part of this.'"
"I've watched a lot of the Algerian and Slovenian players and of course all of the English players so I can be more familiar with them."
"I think I'll be a 100% more intelligent player when I return and even more passionate about the game," the summer transfer opines. "I was passionate before but now in light of everything, I don't take anything for granted... I feel bad for the defenders who'll have to guard me."
Prior to returning to training with Sochaux, Davies completed his rehab at the Cap Sport Centre in Capbreton, France, where he was joined by injured Chelsea players Ashley Cole and Michael Essien.
Working alongside the English defender and the Ghanaian midfielder buoyed the young American to finish his rehab on the right foot.
Davies adds that the three would encourage each other daily and allude to potential World Cup matches among themselves to spark each other during their rehab work.
"When I first saw [Essien and Cole], I thought, 'No, it couldn't be them,'" Davies said of the Chelsea duo. "But it gave me a real boost and motivation. They were extremely nice and encouraging me and telling me that I'll make it back. I had a lot of talks with Ashley and kept talking how we will be playing against each other and how after the match that we'll exchange jerseys."
"Essien was also great saying how much he would love to play us in the second round so it was nice that we were all there helping each other."
With scars now permanently left from the accident that produced two broken bones in his right leg, a broken and dislocated left elbow, a broken nose, a broken eye socket and a broken forehead along with a fractured face, ruptured bladder and brain bleeding, Davies now nears a miraculous recovery that would rank as arguably one of the greatest in American sports history.
The sheer will displayed by the US striker has amazed many who would claim that even reaching this point in his recuperation would be a victory.
But for Davies, he adamantly states that, in the end, taking the field against the Three Lions on June 12th is the only way to complete the storybook ending.
"To get so close to playing in a World Cup and then to have that suddenly put into jeopardy... I'm just simply not going to let that happen."