Remarkable comeback from car accident falls short of World Cup goal for Charlie Davies

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

From the moment Charlie Davies began rehabilitating his broken body after a career-threatening auto accident last fall in Arlington, the World Cup fueled his motivation to return to the soccer field. Doctors and fans alike marveled at his progress and, when he resumed training with his French pro team last month, he appeared on pace to beat the odds and challenge for a U.S. roster slot.

On Tuesday, however, time ran out on the 23-year-old forward's pursuit.

Concluding that Davies was not up to the physical demands required to play in the sport's biggest event, U.S. Coach Bob Bradley omitted him from the 30-player preliminary roster.

The squad will begin workouts Monday at Princeton University. The deadline to submit the 23-man final roster is June 1 -- 11 days before the Americans play their Group C opener against England in Rustenburg, South Africa.

"Charlie has shown incredible heart and determination to reach this point in his recovery," Bradley said. "We have followed his progress extensively during the past several months through physical examinations and personal observation by our staff, and he remained in consideration for this training camp until yesterday."

Davies's club, FC Sochaux, was reluctant to issue a medical clearance that would have allowed him to participate in the U.S. camp. The U.S. Soccer Federation could have pressed the issue with the French team, but given Sochaux's position and "our own evaluation of his progress, we feel it is in Charlie's best interest to continue his rehabilitation and focus on getting fully prepared to resume his professional and international career," Bradley said.

On his Twitter page, Davies wrote: "It was a very sad day for me. . . . I will be back stronger than ever."

Davies rose to prominence last summer during the U.S. team's startling run to the championship game of the FIFA Confederations Cup, a mini-World Cup that included an upset of top-ranked Spain in the semifinals. He scored at fabled Azteca Stadium in Mexico City in August and helped the Americans secure a World Cup berth in the fall.

But on Oct. 13, a day before the qualifying-round finale against Costa Rica at RFK Stadium, Davies broke curfew and was a passenger in a vehicle that crashed on the George Washington Memorial Parkway. A second passenger, Ashley Roberta of Phoenix, Md., died. The driver has not been charged.

Davies suffered a broken right femur, tibia and fibula, dislocated elbow, lacerated bladder and several head injuries. In interviews and online messages, Davies gushed with optimism about returning for the World Cup. Bradley and Sochaux, however, were careful not to inflate expectations. Two weeks ago, Bradley said "the fact that Charlie is that far along is great, but certainly even within the framework of being back in training, let's face it, there's different levels there."

With Davies out of the picture, Jozy Altidore is the only forward to have a roster slot all but secure.

In a week of training at Princeton followed by friendly matches against the Czech Republic and Turkey, Bradley will evaluate veteran Brian Ching, who is recovering from a hamstring injury; Edson Buddle, MLS's leading scorer who has not played for the U.S. team in years; Herculez Gomez, an MLS journeyman who enjoyed a scoring surge in Mexico this season; fast but flawed Robbie Findley; and Eddie Johnson, a once-promising striker who faded from the national scene before a resurgence in Greece this spring.

Veterans Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan are also options at forward.

Other than the Davies decision, there was little drama in the roster announcement. The group includes four with ties to the Washington area: former Maryland Terrapins Maurice Edu, Robbie Rogers and Clarence Goodson (W.T. Woodson), and Olney native Oguchi Onyewu.

Like Davies, Onyewu has not played competitively since the fall, when the 6-foot-4 defender ruptured a patella tendon. However, "we're very, very pleased with his progress," Bradley said. "We look forward to getting him going in camp."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company