Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Is Charlie Davies Going to DC United Really a Good Thing? Is it Really?

Yesterday MLS announced that it would be making a "major" announcement today - that announcement turned out to be that the 2011 MLS All Star Game would be played at RedBull Arena this summer. I think former MLS player and General Manager, Alexi Lalas, summed up this announcement best when, on Twitter, he stated: "2011 MLS All-Star game at Red Bull Arena...and the word 'major' feels it has been taken advantage of yet again."

But it wasn't the All Star Game news that had MLS followers, fans, and commentators all abuzz on Twitter and the blogosphere today, no, it was the news that Charlie Davies was going on a week long trial with D.C. United.

If you follow United States soccer, you're very familiar with Charlie Davies and his story. For those who don't follow US soccer, a quick summary. Born in New Hampshire, Davies played soccer at Boston College and for the Westchester Flames before heading to Sweden in 2007 were he played for Hammerby until, in 2009, he signed with FC Sochaux-Montbéliard in France's Ligue 1. Although Davies earned his first cap with the United States National Team in 2007, his true national coming out party took place in 2009 when he scored against Egypt in the Confederations Cup and against Mexico at the Azteca in a World Cup qualifier. Davies had his VH1 Behind the Music incident on October 13, 2009, when he was a passenger in a vehicle that crashed on the George Washington Parkway just outside Washington, D.C. Davies, who had broken team curfew, ended up with a lacerated kidney as well as numerous broken bones.

Despite an incredible effort to get match fit by May of 2010, when the preliminary US squad of 30 was going to be announced by Coach Bob Bradley, Davies' efforts fell short and he was left off of that roster, dashing his hopes of playing for the United States in South Africa 2010. It was in the wake of this disappointment that Davies made the biggest mistake of his young career, he lashed out at Sochaux's management, in particular club president Alexandre Lacombe, in an interview with RMC, a French radio station. Coach Bradley had told Davies that the primary reason he was left off the squad of 30 was because Bradley had received a letter from Sochaux in which the club stated it would not clear Davies medically to play in the World Cup finals.

At the time of his interview with RMC, Davies admitted he was not yet 100% match fit, but expressed the belief that he would be able to compete for a forward spot and be at 100% in time for the US's opening match against England, less than a month away from the interview with RMC. Despite the claim that he could be match fit by early June, the 2010/2011 Ligue 1 season began in August and there was no sign that Davies was even sniffing a chance of suiting up for anything but a reserves match.

Back in May, some, not all, but a significant some of US soccer fans and followers were disappointed with the fact that Davies would not be heading to South Africa for the World Cup finals and, like Davies, expressed anger at Sochaux for not giving Davies the all clear to play. In other words, it seemed that many US soccer fans agreed with Davies' assessment that he would be ready for the US-England match in early June. This sense that Davies was healthy enough to play in South Africa was seemingly forgotten by many this past fall when Davies was not getting playing time at Sochaux, the conventional wisdom among US fans seemed to be that Davies was still rehabbing, he wasn't ready to play yet, but he would be back soon. When I would occasionally bring up the possibility that Davies' public attack on the club's management was the reason that he wasn't getting playing time, not his health status, it seemed my suggestion was quickly dismissed or quietly ignored.

Davies finally made Sochaux's game day roster on December 19, 2010, but spent the match on the bench.

Now Davies, a US soccer player who followed a non-traditional route, avoiding MLS, to find reasonable success in Europe, is on the verge of joining one of the worst teams in MLS. To add insult to injury, United isn't even willing to pull the trigger on a deal without getting at least a week to evaluate a player who was once considered an integral part of the national team's future. I don't blame United for requiring a trial, it's been over a year since Davies has gotten any meaningful minutes on the pitch.

If United decides to sign Davies to a loan deal, Davies surely will get playing time at United. Let's face it, United needs something to kick start its offense and Davies is not lacking in skill. While American soccer fans like to say that getting playing time is more important for a US player than being on the roster of a club in Europe and just riding the bench, American soccer fans have to be honest with themselves and admit that a move from Sochaux to United is a major step backwards in Davies' professional soccer career. Whether Davies was right or wrong in his criticism of Sochaux - doesn't matter, the reality is that it's a bad idea for a player, especially an American player in Europe, to openly criticize his club's management. There is a price to be paid for doing that, and Davies is paying that price.

Had Charlie Davies taken a moment to think before speaking critically of his club back in May, he most likely would have been suiting up for Sochaux on a regular basis this past fall, scoring goals, and getting the attention of clubs in Europe's other top flight leagues. Instead, Charlie Davies is trying to earn a deal that will allow him to join Ronnie the Raccoon at the crumbling RFK stadium in D.C.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Really well thought-out, documented article. Somehow, however, I doubt he has the ability to play for Sochaux at this point, critical words or not. Here's hoping for a good fit at DC United.