Charlie Davies' comeback from car crash continues at D.C. United training camp

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 5, 2011; 12:00 AM

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. - Upon request, Charlie Davies yanked up his black D.C. United practice jersey to reveal a 12-inch scar, dark and thick, from the top of his abdomen to below the waistband of his shorts. He lifted his left sleeve to expose a four-inch scar across his left elbow. He bent to expose another dark line on his right leg.

As he dropped his head, the jagged scar that begins at the top of one ear, runs across the top of his skull and ends just above his other ear, stared out in the shape of a grin.

This is indeed a different Davies than the lightning-fast player who helped lead the U.S. national team to a 2010 World Cup berth the year before. Months after that success, a car crash on the George Washington Parkway killed one person and nearly took Davies' life.

It also set his soccer career on a new and difficult path, one that led him to D.C. United's training camp on a steamy Friday morning.

On these soccer fields behind the New York Yankees' and Baltimore Orioles' old spring training stadium, Davies hopes to convince team officials he is close enough to being the electrifying forward he was before the accident to deserve a slot on the roster and a place in the starting lineup.

In his first full training session after arriving on a flight from Basel, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Davies generated somewhat lukewarm reviews - with United's coach and general manager cautioning it will take a full week for a complete evaluation. Teammate Santino Quaranta said Davies looked "fine," could surely help the team and "he'll get better going forward."

"He's a little bit rusty," D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper said. "We see he's healed. He's made progress. We want to see how he does over seven days. Can he handle the wear and tear . . . the intensity, the physical demands on players of playing every single day? We need to see how he's running and cutting, and where he's at with speed and quickness.

"We need to see signs that those [skills] are still there, or he's close to getting them back."

Davies played an entire 60-minute intrasquad scrimmage, which was closed to fans and media, but did not contribute a goal or assist, Kasper said. He was paired at forward with Chinese trialist Yang Men in the first half and Joseph Ngwenya in the second. United Coach Ben Olsen, who once played with Davies on the U.S. national team, said Davies showed flashes of his old form but looked fatigued by the end. Thirty players participated in the 90-minute morning session.

Olsen and Kasper said it was too early to draw any conclusions about whether United should take Davies on loan from the French club Sochaux for the next year. Davies and the two teams have agreed to the terms of a 12-month deal that could prove a boon to the offensive-challenged United, provided Davies passes the week-long physical and performance evaluation.

"There are some times when I feel step-for-step the same; other times I don't," Davies said. "Maybe it's because my confidence isn't right now. I feel pretty good with my speed and quickness . . . I've been playing reserve games, and everyone knows those games are league-one level . . . It's good to be out here and show the guys I'm back."

Davies will play in two friendlies Monday, one against the Canadian under-20 national team and another from the local Florida International University. At the end of the week, he will fly to Washington to be examined by United's physicians.

Davies, who was left out of the U.S. World Cup selection and watched the games on television, said he hopes to return eventually to the national team. For now, though, he just wants to prove his worth to D.C. United, which scored a league-low 21 goals last season.

"Here is a perfect situation for me to come here, progress, get the minutes I need and help the team as well," he said. "I don't really need motivation at this point. Every day, I wake up motivated, out to prove myself, not only to come back, but to come back stronger."

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