Charlies Davies sounds like a man who just wants to get an opportunity to play. During his first time meeting the press since joining DC United in Florida for an evaluation, he spoke of focusing only on playing in MLS and his desire to prove that he's physically capable of competing at a high level.
"The only thing I'm thinking about right now is gettin ga chance to play for DC United and to getting back into form," Davies said. "As far as my future, that’s the only thing i’m thinking about right now. I just want the players and coaches to have confidence in me and know that I can turn this thing around and help this team out."
For a player who just about 16 months ago was penciled in by many to be the World Cup starter for the United States and was enjoying a fair amount of success in Ligue 1 as a 23-year-old, that must feel like a significant fall. But maybe it shows a certain maturity, too, and maturity is the thing that Davies has most commonly been accused of lacking in the meantime.
It wasn't just his being out past curfew when that fateful accident occurred on Oct. 13, 2009. It wasn't just the way he seemed to be speaking out of turn when declaring himself fit for the World Cup. It wasn't just when he was arrested during that bizarre speeding incident last October. It was also the way he never seemed to entirely understand why those incidents were upsetting his fans and supporters.
During the Friday conference call, there was no boasting of imminent greatness, no promises of dominating his opponents and wowing his coaches, no intentions of proving detractors wrong. Davies simply talked like someone who is confident in his abilities, but realizes he has show it on the field.
"I feel really good with my speed at the moment," Davies said. "At times, I feel so so fast, I feel great. I’ve taken the necessary strides to get back to where I need to be.
"But you can always improve on every facet of your game. Do I need to improve on certain things? Of course, I haven’t played at a high level for a while. Of course, with work, I think I’ll be a force and back to being a successful striker."
Davies, as has been well documented, has not played a competitive first-team match since his injury. Sochaux, the Ligue 1 team that still owns his contract, notably did not declare him fit for the World Cup (much to his chagrin) and has since only made room for him on the 18-man gameday roster once. It would hardly be shocking if Davies was in Florida railing against Sochaux. Instead, he came off very level-headed about his situation.
"Sochaux knows I will eventually get to where they want me to be," Davies said. "The big problem is there are two strikers ahead of me that have nine goals each and are they fifth in the league in goals. The coach has his hands tied for me to show what I can do. It’s something you can understand. I understand it and have taken it well and have moved on to get into the right situation which i think I’ve found."
Of course, that last part still remains to be seen. DC United coach Ben Olsen sounded optimistic about Davies' potential, but was realistic about what having him in camp means.
"It’s no different than any other trialist," Olsen said. "We will judge him on all the things we look for in players. I have the fortune of knowing some of his intangibles. Those boxes are already checked, as far as his mentality. That’s why he was so successful and got him back to where he is now. We need to evaluate him as a soccer player and where he is now."
There's no question Olsen could use a player with Davies' skills. DC United scored a league-history worst 22 goals last season for all the talent they've added this off-season, none of them are the kind of players you expect to be scoring in bunches.
Davies could very well be that player. While never an amazingly prolific scorer, Davies has found the back of the net plenty during his national team and European career. Just as importantly, when at his best he's a creator whose speed can create all kinds of trouble for opposing defenses. A fully healthy Davies unleashed on MLS defenders could be something to behold.
For all the talk of potential backlash, there really does not seem to be a discernible downside for either party. DC United only needs to sign Davies if they are convinced he's healthy. On Davies' side, the situation is even more obvious.
"There’s not really any disadvantages at this point," Davies said. "For me, it’s an advantage to be getting the match time that I need and to be under the right coach to push me in the right direction. There’s only advantages to me being here, to be in the U.S. being pushed, to reach my lifelong goals."