USA striker Charlie Davies made a miraculous return to competitive football at the weekend. Adding spark off the bench for new side DC United, he capped an amazing comeback from horrific injuries sustained in a car crash which not only kept him out of last year’s FIFA World Cup™, but nearly cost him his life.
“Speed is real; it changes games,” said United coach Ben Olsen, who took a chance on signing the player on loan from French side Sochaux just weeks before his side's first game of the season. Olsen’s words echoed those of USA coach Bob Bradley, who handed Davies his Stars and Stripes debut and 16 subsequent caps. “He brings energy to a game,” the coach said. “He never gives up on a lost cause.”
Coming off the bench in the season opener and grabbing a pair of goals in a 3-1 win over 2008 champions Columbus Crew is something Davies calls “the most special moment” in his career, one that was nearly cut short near Washington DC 18 months ago. He broke every major bone in his right leg; the fibula, tibia, and even the thickest bone in the human body, the femur, was shattered and required the insertion of two titanium rods. He tore ligaments in his left knee, fractured his elbow, his eye socket and his nose. He suffered major head trauma and lacerated his bladder.
US national team doctor Bert Mandelbaum called the injuries “catastrophic” in an interview with FIFA.com, “The kind of injuries Charlie had were those you see in a shock trauma ward, where people are trying to get back to something of a normal life, not professional sports.” (click on American miracle man bouncing back to the right for an in-depth story on Davies’ injury and recovery)
The big doubts about Davies’ long road to recovery were whether or not his main attributes – his ferocious turn of pace and breakaway speed – would ever fully come back. That question was answered in the affirmative at the weekend. He scored from the spot ten minutes after coming on early in the second half before slamming home a second after a trademark barnstorming run 13 minutes from time. "He's going to be a force in MLS," said new teammate Dax McCarty.
Commenting on Davies’ pace and spark in the game, Olsen was emphatic. “It could get scary,” said the coach, hoping to guide the team to a significantly better finish than their last-place outing last season. The team’s next test comes against the New England Revolution, just outside Boston, where Davies made his name as a University player.
“Having so many friends and family will make it special,” said the player, who was reduced to tears after the win, a huge scar still visible across his head. “Every game is going be an amazing experience, and I'm not going to take any game for granted," he went on. "I'm just looking forward to each game I can get out there and play. It’s such a special and emotional feeling to be back."