By FRANCO PANIZO
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – D.C. United is aiming to get back to its glory days in 2011 after a truly forgettable year. The club's next potential player is looking to do the same thing.
Charlie Davies is in Florida with D.C., embarking on a week-long stint with the club that will help D.C. determine whether to bring him in on a season-long loan from French club FC Sochaux.
Davies is hoping to complete his remarkable recovery from multiple injuries sustained in a deadly car accident in October 2009. He joined the team for its pre-season preparations in south Florida on Wednesday night, trained on Thursday and played in Friday's intra-squad scrimmage.
After Friday's scrimmage, Davies admitted afterwards that he isn't 100 percent back to where he was before the accident.
"There's some times when I feel step-for-step the same, and there's other times where I don't feel just as right," said Davies, who has not played in an official match since a World Cup qualifying 3-2 win over Honduras on Oct. 10, 2009. "Maybe because my confidence isn't up right now, so I think once I get that back up and at full confidence then I think I'll feel exactly the same."
Davies has yet to play for Sochaux's first team, but In terms of speed, one of his strongest assets, Davies feels he's almost back to his best.
"I feel pretty good with my speed and quickness," said Davies. "I might have a little more to progress, but as far as being out there and being like 'That guy's fast,' you'll still think I'm pretty fast."
Davies may be quick, but his return to first-team action has not been. About 15 months removed from the accident, Davies has been limited to playing in reserve games for Sochaux, but even that was sporadic, leaving the former Boston College forward to look for options elsewhere.
That quest for playing time has brought him on trial to D.C. United, which is looking to bounce back from a 6-20-4 season. The move came about when Davies' agent, Lyle Yorks, presented him with the idea.
"My agent thought that it might be the best situation for me to be in the right atmosphere," said Davies. "Where I have all the support of not only just my teammates, but of the people around me, the higher-ups like the management and the coaching staff and being in a comfortable situation. I thought about it and I thought, 'Yeah, maybe I think he's right' and so far I think it is going to be the best situation for me to progress."
Having only scored 21 goals last year in league play, D.C. United thought it would be a good move to bring Davies along for a trial with a potential loan already negotiated should he prove physically fit and capable of returning to the player he once was.
"He had interest in coming to the MLS and getting some looks," said D.C United head coach Ben Olsen, who played with Davies on the U.S. team that participated in the 2007 Copa America and is no stranger to injuries himself. "We're first in that list of national team players coming back so we were a logical choice.
"I had a nice chat with Charlie (beforehand) and he very candidly gave me an update about himself and his situation (with Sochaux). He said he would be very excited to come try out here. Not a lot of guys would come try out. A lot of guys would hold out and say 'Get me or not. I'm not trying out.' But give Charlie credit. He's over here, and he's confident enough to come here for a week – which is never easy – and show what he has."
Davies has been received with open arms, and has felt at home thanks to the presence of several familiar faces. From Dax McCarty at youth levels to Santino Quaranta at the 2009 Gold Cup, Davies has played with several of the players on D.C. United's roster. That has been an added benefit to a player adjusting to a change of scenery.
"It's great to come out and play with guys I've played with in the past," said Davies. "I grew up playing with Steve King in the regional team at FC Delco, and I've played with Dax with the youth national teams and Santino in Gold Cup. So it's great to come out and see guys that you know and played against in the past and it helps out a lot."
Davies isn't the only one thankful. D.C. United players are happy to have Davies in camp, and not only because he might be able to contribute to the team with his goal-scoring ability.
"Very, very excited to be back with Charlie," said Quaranta. "As a team and as group, we're very excited to have him here. We think he can help us, and just overall as a friend, happy to have him in camp.
"I went out to dinner with Charlie the other night and we sat down and talked for a while. We have some similar stuff that we've had in our lives and he seems very grateful. I was with Charlie with the national team, and he gave me my first goal (with an assist against Honduras in the 2009 Gold Cup). To be with him again, and to see where he's come mentally, I'm proud of him."
The mental aspect is something Davies agrees has changed, and grown, since the accident. Davies feels he has learned a lot about himself since making the decision to break curfew on that dreadful night, and he now has a newfound appreciation for life on and off the soccer field. So much so that Davies didn't think twice about jumping at the chance at returning to the area where the accident occurred.
"It's not the city that did this to me, it was myself," said Davies. "It was a bad decision I made, but then you can't forget about the support that I had at RFK that game against Costa Rica. So to play in front of those fans that are so passionate, it's definitely a wonderful feeling to get a chance or opportunity to play in front of them."
When asked on Friday, Davies also admitted a goal of his is to play in front of U.S. national team fans at this summer's Gold Cup. But Davies stated he has to take things one step at a time, starting with doing well enough in the upcoming week to convince D.C. United he is worth keeping.