Charlie Davies, on loan to D.C. United this season, continues to make strides in his effort to revitalize a career shattered by a serious car accident near Washington in October 2009.
Davies has played regularly for United in preseason, but from my observations and the club’s playing rotations and partnerships, he seems likely to begin the league schedule as a substitute next Saturday against the Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium. United plays its final tuneup this Saturday here in Charleston, S.C., against Toronto FC.
Soccer Insider: You played 90 minutes last night against Chicago. How would you assess your performance?
Charlie Davies: It was another step in the right direction. It was good to play 90 minutes and not feel tired. I still feel like I need to be more aggressive. At times, I am taking the safe way out and trying to keep the ball and play it back, whereas before, I would be more aggressive and take my chances. Usually, in the past, one out of three times I would take on a defender, I’d get through and score.
SI: Why do you think you’ve been hesitant?
CD: It’s just bad habits I’ve started to have coming back. Sometimes I lose a little bit of that aggressiveness and will. I am starting to slowly get out of that habit. Sure enough, a couple more games I will be ready to take those chances and go at defenders like I used to.
SI: You had a great chance late in the match, where you were able to use your speed. It looked onside, but it was called back.
CD: Yeah, everyone said it was onside. And when I go back and think about it, I was onside because I remember timing it perfectly. That was good, actually, because my first touch was good and the finish was good. Everything was good, but it just didn’t count. It’s good to know I can still do those things. I’ll get those chances in MLS and I just have to make sure I’m onside and it counts.
SI: When you made that run, it brought back memories of what you’ve done in the past?
CD: Yes, 100 percent, all the way through it. It felt like the [car] accident never happened. As soon as the ball hit the back of the net, it felt like, “I’m back.” And then I see the flag up [laughing]. That sensation was there and it feels good to know that I am almost there, I’ve almost reached the point where the impact of the accident on me, in my mind, is gone.
SI: Physically, do you feel like you are at the same point before the accident, or have you had to change the way you play because of physical limitations?
CD: I feel I have everything back, but at times I feel like I don’t use everything like I used to. I used to throw my body everywhere, whereas now, I think, “Do I go in this way?” I think too much now. That’s the biggest difference. Before, I would just do things on instinct and there was no thought process. It was just: “Do it.” Now I am thinking: “Do I do this? Do I do that?”
SI: So thinking about everything is good or bad?
CD: It was good in the beginning, but for me, it’s always been about taking maybe just a split-second to think. Now it takes more time than usual.
SI: How would you describe the chemistry with the other forwards?
CD: It’s definitely still evolving. I’ve only played with Josh [Wolff] and Joe [Ngwenya] a couple of times. Now I’ve played with Blake [Brettschneider] one time. That’s going to take time, but we have some time. When you are in a game, you are still going to get those chances, and the good thing for me, with the strikers that we have, it’s really easy to find a connection with these guys. It’s been a good experience to get minutes with everyone and eventually as the season goes on, Benny [Olsen] will assess who is the best pair and who will get it done.
SI: Can you sense this team, despite all of its new parts, coming together?
CD: I can. I was very fortunate to come to this team because, from the beginning, it was a great group of guys. You could tell everyone was into it. Most teams, there are a group of players who are distant from another group of players. There’s a big split and no one really talks. But from what I’ve seen here, everyone is on the same page and everyone knows what we have to do. That plays a huge role in being successful.
SI: Culturally, even though you are an American playing in the States, it’s a different soccer culture than you are accustomed to in Europe. How have you handled that transition?
CD: There’s a big difference, but for me, it’s a different situation than a normal player. For me, I am just focused on playing games. As soon as I get those games, I’ll be back into it. Boom! That’s what I have been missing and that is what I need. For me, I will do whatever it takes to play in as many games as I can.
SI: With all the preseason travel, have you settled in Washington?
CD: I am actually moving into my new place on Sunday. I wanted to live in Georgetown, but I couldn’t find the right place, so I ended up in Chinatown. It’s a brand-new building and I’m looking forward to settling in and learning the city.
SI: Beyond the soccer aspects, you have received a lot of attention because of the accident and your recovery. Has that worn on you and become a distraction?
CD: It’s been a lot, as far as all the interviews, but for me, it never gets old to tell my story because I feel like a lot of people can learn something from it. I’m proud to come out of an experience like that and come out on top. Everyone makes their mistakes, but not everyone pays for it. Of course, I paid dearly for it, but to come back from it is another thing. I like to share that because I feel it’s something I learned from and grew from.
SI: Next Friday, the driver involved in the accident will be sentenced in Alexandria. Will you attend or will you have your attorney, Jon Pels, handle everything?
CD: No, Jon will go. I’ve stayed back from everything. Everyone knows I am just focused on getting back to playing. That’s how I left it.
SI: Have you written anything for Jon to read at the sentencing?
CD: Yes. I’ve done that already. It was difficult. I wanted to address Ashley’s family [Ashley Roberta died in the crash]. I haven’t had any contact with them because it’s one thing to have everything that has happened to me and lose your dreams but you are still alive. For her family, they have to deal with losing a life. It’s so much worse, and it’s hard to find the words. I don’t know if they can ever forget it, but I hope they can come to some sort of peace with Ashley having a good afterlife. It’s been hard to talk about and it was hard to write about it -- one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Jon [and his associates] helped me with it because I’ve never had to do anything like this.
SI: Do you feel that, with the sentencing, another chapter has passed?
CD: For me, it’s not going to be closed until I am back with the national team. As far as me crossing that finish line, it’s not done until I get to put on that [U.S.] shirt again. I can’t wait for that moment because I know it’s eventually going to happen, I just don’t know when. And then I can close that door and open another one where I can see what I can accomplish next.