Davies uses his experience to inspire

It has been 16 months since the U.S. national team winger, now on loan to D.C. United, was involved in a serious car accident. He says 'it's good to tell my story.'

March 02, 2011|By Grahame L. Jones, Tribune Newspapers

Considering everything he has been through, Charlie Davies looks, acts and sounds in remarkably good shape.

The scars are evident, both physical and mental, but the resilience he has shown — not to mention courage when he so easily could have given up — are testimony to the player and the man.

Sixteen months have passed since Davies, 24, was involved in a horrific car accident that left the vehicle torn asunder, one female passenger dead and Davies and the female driver with serious injuries.

The U.S. national team winger suffered two broken bones in his right leg, a broken left elbow, a lacerated bladder and numerous facial fractures.

The one-car crash on the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia destroyed Davies' dream of playing in the World Cup in South Africa last summer, but it has not destroyed his spirit or his determination to reclaim his career.

He has been signed on loan from his French team, Sochaux, by Major League Soccer's D.C. United, and last week, after playing for United in a 0-0 scrimmage with Chivas USA in Carson, Calif., Davies talked about his past and his future.

"It's good to tell my story," he said. "I don't really get sick of telling it because it helps inspire a lot of people, so I'm glad that I can kind of be a way for people to move on past a difficult time in their lives."

At the time of the accident, which occurred in the early morning hours after Davies had helped the U.S. clinch its place in the World Cup with a victory over Honduras, Davies was known for his blazing speed and his finishing.

His national team career was filled with promise. He had played only 17 games for the U.S., scoring four goals, but his performance in the Confederations Cup in South Africa in 2009 signaled an outstanding future.

Then came the crash, something Davies never will be able to erase from his memory.

"It's behind me, but I wake up every day and I have all these scars all over my body that make you remember what happened," he said. "I'll never forget, of course, but it's something that I've moved past. I've moved on and I'm really just focused on getting back and scoring goals and being that player that I've always wanted to be.

"To go through what I've gone through the past year and a half, you definitely mature and you learn a lot about yourself and you also find out a lot about the people around you. It's been an amazing experience. I feel like I've aged 10 years."

Missing the World Cup was especially difficult.

"It was extremely tough," Davies said. "I was able to watch every game. It was like they're my brothers and I want to support them and see how they did. Just watching those games, it was like, 'I could have done something there' or 'They needed me there.' It was extremely difficult, but it also gave me the satisfaction of being like, 'They're going to need me again.'

"After the game against Algeria (a 1-0 victory that advanced the U.S. to the second round), they called me from the locker room. That's kind of what really made it special and made me realize how much I mean to them and they mean to me."

Bob Bradley, the U.S. coach, watched Friday's scrimmage and spoke to Davies, telling him that if he regains his former level, the national team will come calling again.

Bradley was instrumental in Davies leaving Sochaux, where he got no playing time other than in reserve team games since recovering from the accident and subsequent surgeries.

"He had a big influence on my move here," Davies said. "He told me it was a no-brainer. To get back to where I used to be, I need not only 15 or 20 minutes, I need 90-minute matches. That's the only way I'll get back to full fitness. That was all I needed to hear to make the move."

So Davies plugs away.

"He's been doing just fine," D.C. United coach Ben Olsen said. "I've seen improvement, and that's what this is about, seeing him improve every day. Physically, I still see some great qualities."

Each day brings a step forward and a chance for Davies to realize his good fortune.

"I'm blessed, for sure," he said. "When you look at the car after the accident, anybody would say this guy is lucky to be alive, let alone to still be able play soccer. It's a miracle.

"Everything happens for a reason, and I think the reason this happened was for me to go through everything that I did and still come back to be strong.

"So I hope that people can just look at that and be like, 'OK, there's hope.' For all the bad situations that people go through, there still is hope if you keep focused and obviously pray, because that's what I've done a lot and it's definitely paying off.

"Soccer meant everything to me before, just as much as it does now. I used to take it for granted, I would say. Now, every time I can step on the training field and put on cleats, it's, 'I am so lucky.' . . . Whenever I can come out and know that I'm that much closer to being back, it's a great feeling."

Davies said the backing he has received has been crucial.

"It's been absolutely fantastic, the support from everyone, not just fans but teammates, other players," he said. "To think that everyone's behind you, it gives you that extra push to carry on and know that you can't let all these people down and that you're doing something special. For me, it's just a matter of time."

gjones@tribune.com

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