D.C. United says Charlie Davies is 'very close' to starting form
Thursday, February 17, 2011; 12:08 AM
D.C. United's acquisition of Charlie Davies promises to energize a melancholy fan base, boost merchandise and ticket sales and provide an inspiring narrative that transcends soccer.
Beyond the ancillary benefits, however, a vital question remains unanswered, and might remain unresolved for some time: Can he play at a high level again?
The fact of the matter is, since his recovery from severe injuries suffered in a car accident in Arlington in October 2009, Davies hasn't appeared in a first-division match. Now he is being asked to help rejuvenate a club that set the MLS record for fewest goals in a season last year and endured its worst campaign ever.
"Is he physically ready to start 30 games? In a month's time after preseason, I think the answer would probably be yes," General Manager Dave Kasper said. "But will he get a starting job? That will be determined by him. He has got a little ways to go to get that final bit of confidence, to get to that top level. He is very close."
Hours after United secured Davies's services on a season-long loan from French club Sochaux, the 24-year-old forward was formally introduced at a news conference Wednesday at RFK Stadium. Afterward, he and Coach Ben Olsen flew to California to rejoin the rest of the squad for the third stage of training camp.
United, set to open the season at home March 19 against the Columbus Crew, will have the option to purchase his contract at the end of the year for a transfer fee estimated at $1.3 million.
Davies's contract with United calls for about $225,000 in guaranteed compensation and includes several goal-scoring incentives, said multiple people who didn't want to be identified because salaries are not released until the season is well underway. He will also continue to receive a portion of his Sochaux salary.
"I am very thankful and grateful to D.C. United for giving me this chance to come here and prove myself again to the American public and to the world that I am back," said Davies, who, before the accident, was slated to start for the United States at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
"I've come a long way. It's been a long and tough road. I am really excited to start a new chapter of my life here."
Before entering into a contract, United evaluated Davies for almost two weeks at training camp in Florida, a tryout of sorts in order to gauge his physical progress.
He also underwent a battery of medical exams and tests that United President Kevin Payne called "unprecedented and exhaustive."
Satisfied with Davies's physical condition, the club's coaching staff then had to determine whether he was capable of regaining his attacking qualities. Davies has been active since last spring but limited to low-tier games with Sochaux's reserve squad.