Photo by Ben Keller/D.C. United
By AVI CREDITOR
WASHINGTON – After every demotion to the FC Sochaux reserves, Charlie Davies' patience was wearing thinner and thinner.
Despite regaining health in a relatively miraculous period of time considering the severity of his injuries, Davies' light at the end of Sochaux's tunnel wasn't getting any brighter.
Consider D.C. United a house-full of Christmas lights adorning the inside of that tunnel.
About 16 months removed from first-team soccer after a horrific car accident that took place just a handful of miles down the road from RFK Stadium, Davies will get the chance to regain the form that made him one of the United States' most promising strikers with a team that could certainly use a player of that caliber.
"I needed a new atmosphere and new environment, and I found it," Davies said. "I'm extremely excited and happy. I haven't felt this way in a while."
United acquired the 24-year-old forward on a 12-month loan from Sochaux with a club option to purchase his contract outright kicking in on Dec. 1. He was introduced to the local media Wednesday afternoon and was handed a No. 9 jersey with his name emblazoned on the back.
It was a moment he'd been waiting for since it became clear he wouldn't be contributing to Sochaux's first team this season. With two in-form strikers ahead of him on the team's depth chart, Davies, who is still working his own way back into form, was relegated to the club's reserve team with regularity.
That's not an easy fate to swallow for a player who prides himself on trying to succeed at the highest possible level.
"Those (reserve) games were very, very difficult for me," Davies said. "Not just to play with that group, but mentally it was very difficult going into each one of those games. A lot of it was just like, 'All right Charlie, let's just get through this game. You know you don't want to be playing here. You don't want to be playing with the reserves. You want to be playing with the first team. You want to get your chance.'
"I performed during the week in training, and I've scored goals, and you expect to get that first-team chance, and then you have to go to the reserves. It's like another blow to the chest, and another one and it kept piling on. I'm extremely happy and thankful that I got this chance."
It's a chance that D.C. United seems just as happy to take.
With the club having completed its week-long evaluation of Davies, the front office and technical staff believes it's getting a player that will help turn around what was one of the league's most anemic attacks in 2010.
"It's very clear that he's worked very hard to get back to a top level," D.C. United general manager Dave Kasper said. "Is he physically ready to start 30 games? In a month's time, the answer will probably be yes."
Instead of trying to work his way back outside of the spotlight of the American public and media, Davies said that he spurned chances to be loaned elsewhere overseas for the chance to play for D.C. It's a risky proposition considering the impending scrutiny of every one of his touches, but the ever-confident striker doesn't see it that way.
"I'm definitely ready for games to be closely watched, and my performance especially under a microscope," Davies said. "The were other opportunities in Europe, but I need to be in the best situation and the best environment for me, and I think that's here with D.C. United."
As a trialist last week, Davies got off to a strong start with his new club.
He scored three goals and assisted on two others in friendlies against the Canada and Trinidad & Tobago Under-20 teams last week while D.C. trained in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. While the competition wasn't necessarily the toughest, Davies showed enough in training and scrimmages for the United braintrust to sign off on the loan.
"He proved to us that he's on the way back to being the Charlie of old," head coach Ben Olsen said. "Is he there yet? There's still some rust of being off that long and going through some of the things he went through. Our job — a job we're looking forward to — is dusting that rust off and getting him back to that form that we saw."
That certainly fits into Davies' plan as well.
"The goal is to be better than I was before and achieve all the goals I had before as a player," Davies said.
One of those goals was starring for the United States. With the Gold Cup approaching, the questions regarding Davies' pending place on Bob Bradley's roster will undoubtedly resurface, a la World Cup 2010, especially if Davies gets off to a hot start this season.
"Of course you always want to play for the national team," Davies said. "I definitely would love for that to happen. For the moment it's not on my mind. Just getting back to being an in-form striker and playing well every game, and playing well for D.C. and scoring goals. That's the most important thing.
"I'm looking at the short term. I'm taking it day-by-day. I'm very thankful for this organization to give me the chance to prove myself. I want to help this team win and do everything I can to not only get back to my previous form but help this team reach their objectives."