Of all the MLS end-of-season awards, comeback player of the year seemed the most clear cut: Charlie Davies would win easily. Instead, voters selected David Beckham.
In his inspirational return to first-team soccer after more than a year of rehab and reserve matches, the D.C. United forward scored 11 goals. He didn’t come back from a competition-related injury; he recovered from catastrophic injuries suffered in a 2009 car accident. There was concern he would never function properly again, never mind play professional soccer.
Davies’s first half of the season was more impressive than the second. He was benched for much of the final month and, despite a few scoring surges through the season, some observers concluded he will never return to the form that propelled his club and national team career before the accident. But just the fact that he was playing again should’ve been enough to win the award.
He didn’t do himself any favors with multiple embellishments in attempting to draw penalty kicks. And many people were turned off by his decision to sue a nightclub and party sponsor for negligence in allowing the driver of the car that crashed two years ago to consume alcohol. But should those issues factor into the voting for a largely ceremonious award, one that recognizes perseverance in the face of extreme adversity? The guy nearly died in an accident.
Beckham actually completed his comeback from an Achilles’ tendon injury during the 2010 season, returning for the final stage of the regular season and the playoffs. He didn’t come back from anything this season.
Some will argue that, because Davies didn’t play in MLS in 2010, he didn’t deserve to win the MLS comeback award. But the fact is, the league deemed him a worthy candidate and included him on the preliminary ballot. He was then named a finalist two weeks ago, along with Beckham and Chicago’s Dominic Oduro, who appeared in 27 matches in 2010. (Oduro went from five goals last year to 12 this year — maybe voters confused his comeback with being one of the most improved?) For the record, although Beckham has been employed by the Galaxy for the past five seasons, he was injured in 2010 while playing outside of MLS.
In the voting breakdown released by MLS, Beckham received a weighted score of 59.76, followed by Davies at 57.81 and Oduro at 41.52. Houston’s Geoff Cameron (who was active the last part of the 2010 season) was fourth at 38.46 and Portland’s Jack Jewsbury (29 games in 2010) fifth at 22.57.
Beckham edged Davies in the player voting, Davies beat Beckham in the media polling and Oduro won among club representatives (coaches, front office), with Cameron second, Beckham third and Davies fourth.
After all Davies has overcome physically and emotionally, minor awards probably don’t mean much to him. His blessings are counted in the ability to walk, to kick a soccer ball again, to prepare for his wedding next summer. But in this instance, he deserved better.