MEN'S SOCCER: Davies Eyes National Team After Enduring Challenges At Home And Abroad
Published: Sunday, September 29, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 29, 2013 22:09
Charlie Davies is home.
After playing in the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Washington DC, and Denmark, the former Boston College striker is back in town fighting for a playoff spot with the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer.
Davies sounded happy in a phone interview, coming up on the fourth anniversary of the event that changed his life.
As a youngster, Davies played for Brooks School, a preparatory school an hour north of Boston. There, Davies was a four-year standout and Independent School League record holder in goals and points.
Upon his arrival at BC, Davies made an immediate impact. After leading the team with nine goals, he became Big East Rookie of the Year in 2004. Davies struggled with injuries his sophomore year but fought back in his junior season, scoring 15 times in 16 appearances before leaving the school to tryout with the Dutch giant Ajax.
Davies said his parents were excited for him as he went out on his own.
“I didn’t mind getting thrown into different cultures and different languages, because I wanted to go to Europe so bad,” Davies said, who stayed with a family during his trial period.
The USA international incurred a new experience in Scandinavia. After failing to make the Ajax squad, the forward signed a contract with Club Hammarby IF of the Swedish Premier Division. Davies enjoyed his experience in Sweden, saying that it was a friendly spot in which a young professional could develop.
In 2009, Davies made the U.S.’s Confederations Cup team. Bereft of points going into its final group stage match with Egypt, the team was in need of a multi-goal victory to give itself a shot at advancing to the semifinals.
After 21 minutes of play that night in South Africa, Davies gave the stars and stripes momentum. Jozy Altidore’s cross pinballed between a pair of Egyptian defenders, the keeper, and Davies. Although he was near goal, the angle was too tight for a shot, and the ball was trickling over the byline. Yet Davies would not give up. His left foot saved the ball, and his right-footed effort hit the keeper before deflecting into the net. The goal gave the Americans a 1-0 lead, and just like that, it was game on. Davies’ goal would help the U.S. along its path to the Confederations Cup Final.
During those weeks in South Africa, Davies established his signature celebration—the Stanky Leg. The idea for the move stemmed from the partnership he formed with his strike partner, Jozy Altidore.
“I’m an innovative guy and Jozy is one of my best friends,” he said. “It’s very rare that two forwards have such a good connection and complement each other so well.”
The tandem was prolific in the tournament and presented an exciting prospect for a long-term pairing.
Davies proceeded to sign with French outfit Sochaux following his sensational summer, which he finished off by scoring a picturesque goal against Mexico in the famous Azteca Stadium.
“You had to speak French,” Davies said of his time in the European nation, “Training was more demanding. Competition was much stronger.
“It was a business situation. It was ‘you do this or you don’t play.’ It wasn’t really a friendly environment. It was a workman’s environment.”
After a successful start in France, the forward returned to the U.S. for the team’s final World Cup Qualifying match against Costa Rica in October. Just days before the game, Davies was out with friends at the Shadow Room, a DC area nightclub. That night, Davies suffered a horrific car accident, leaving him in an intensive care unit for days, changing not only his career but also his life. U.S. Soccer’s website reported that the player suffered a “lacerated bladder, fractured right tibia and femur, a fractured elbow, and facial injuries” in the tragic crash.
Support for Davies was overwhelming. He said he received more than 15,000 emails in addition to over 9,000 letters. At the Costa Rica match after the accident, fans held up No. 9 placards in the game’s ninth minute. Jonathan Bornstein’s 95th minute effort ensured that the U.S. finished top of its group, and after the game players unveiled special shirts, many wearing his name and number under their jerseys.
“It was the constant support that I fed off of,” Davies said. “I used it as energy and motivation.”
“The mental challenges—going so far and then a set back, going so far and then a set back. It was never really feeling like you’re going to get there, and having to trick your mind into thinking that you’re much further along than you are just to push through the training sessions.”
While in the hospital, many doubted that Davies would be able to recover from such severe injuries in just seven months to make the World Cup squad, but Davies was dedicated to his recovery.
He would wake up at 7 a.m., train until 11 a.m., break for lunch, and then start working again from 1 or 2 p.m. to 5 or 6 in the evening.
“By the time I got home at 6 or 7, I was ready to sleep,” he said. “I literally gave every ounce of energy I had—and that I could give—every single day for about six months.”
He describes those six months in preparation for the World Cup as grueling, yet he sees it as a positive task. Davies used goal setting to battle the mental and physical demands of his difficult rehabilitation process.
“I was working constantly, but I was happy,” Davies said. “It was a tough, challenging experience but it definitely made me better, so I’m a better person for it. I’m a better athlete, professionally for it, and it’s something that has shaped me into the man I am today, which I’m thankful for.”
Davies nearly found his way onto the World Cup roster, but was deemed unfit to play by his French owners. Over the next few days, social media erupted with criticism.