Charlie Davies joined DC United of Major League Soccer on loan from the French club Sochaux on Wednesday, returning to the area where he suffered near-fatal injuries in a 2009 car crash.
Sixteen months after suffering a ruptured bladder, two broken right leg bones, a broken nose, eye socket, left elbow and forehand as well as bleeding on the brain on a main road near the US capital, Davies donned a United jersey.
"I needed a new atmosphere, a new environment, and I found it and I'm extremely excited and happy," Davies said. "Ever since the beginning when I got out of the hospital bed, to the wheelchair, to the crutches, to walking, then to jogging on a treadmill, on each phase I wanted to do more. I always pushed myself to the limit. I think that's one of the main things that pushed me through."
United will have an option to make the loan for the 24-year-old striker a permanent transfer at the end of the season.
Davies visited the site of the crash where one person was killed in December of 2009, two months after the wreck, with the help of then-US national teammate Oguchi Onyewu. "As weird as it sounds, it was interesting for me to see all of it again from a different perspective and just to be so thankful for my life," Davies said. "I felt relieved after driving by the site of the accident."
Davies, who says his scars are already daily reminders of the crash without playing so near bringing more painful memories, had helped the US clinch a berth in last year's FIFA World Cup™ and was breaking curfew when he went out ahead of a final qualifier in Washington. United need not worry about him violating team bedtime rules. "If you go through what I did, you learn a lot about yourself, what you need to do to be a professional and have a long career," Davies said.
Davies has not played in a full competitive match since a US World Cup qualifying victory in Honduras three days before the crash. But last week during a Florida training camp, Davies scored a goal for United in a friendly against Canada's U-20 team and added two goals while setting up another in a victory over Trinidad and Tobago's U-20 squad.
"He proved to us that he's on his way back to being the Charlie of old," said United coach Ben Olsen, a former US teammate of Davies. "There's still some rust of being off that long and going through all the things that he went through. Our job is dusting that rust off and getting him back to that form we saw several years ago."
He worked last year to try and get in shape to be considered for the American FIFA World Cup squad but it was an all-but impossible task. "I came back too early as far as training in France and I think I developed a lot of bad habits that for the past three or fourth months I've been breaking," Davies said. "It has just been very difficult.
"When you lose a ball, and you lose another ball, and you start hearing guys on your team starting going 'arrrgh' and then after that you're isolated from the game because no one wants to play you the ball -- the downs definitely outweighed the ups. In training I would do one move right and it would feel like the old me and that's what kept me going. These little 10-second moments during the day would keep me going and I'll remember that for the rest of my life."