HOUSTON – It was a career-defining month and a half at the World Cup for Brad Davis.
The Houston Dynamo midfielder was there for the highs of starting against world soccer power Germany and the lows that came with the heartbreak of a World-Cup-ending loss to Belgium. He even had to deal with the unfortunate circumstances of having his family get stuck on a flooded bus in Recife, where they watched his start on an iPhone.
It was an experience that will live at the top of his career resume. Now, however, it’s back to reality and one that is not so rosy.
Prepping for Friday’s home match against the New York Red Bulls (8:30 pm ET; NBCSN live stream on NBCSports.com), Davis was back in orange just hours after arriving in Houston at 5:30 am on Thursday. He returns to a team that is in a tailspin and looking for anything to bail them out.
While Davis is back in the fold, along with fellow World Cup starter Boniek Garcia, who played in all three of Honduras’ groug-stage matches, and Ricardo Clark, who is returning from injury, the club is still taking a pragmatic approach to their return.
“I think we’re a better team. It doesn’t mean, ‘Hey, now that the band’s back together we’re going to steamroll everybody,’” said head coach Dominic Kinnear on Thursday, also confirming that Davis will be available Friday. “That’s not the case, it’s never been the case in MLS for any team. … Brad’s back, he’ll show some good moments [Friday]. I think it just makes us a better team, and we’ll see how it goes.”
It’s understandable to expect Davis to bring success. Having a player who's World-Cup-sharp can only boost a team’s attack – something Kinnear said the club needs to improve on – while reintroducing his leadership and calming influence. Those things had the team humming before Davis left.
“I know the fans want to win, we want to win and it’s been a rough patch, but I’m a piece of the puzzle, I’m not the whole puzzle,” Davis said. “We’ve had a lot of guys out with different injuries and things like that. We have a half of a season left to turn things around and that’s what we’re going to try and do.”
Still, getting him back in his familiar No. 11 kit should bring some boost in morale, which has taken a beating in their current five-game league losing streak.
“It wouldn’t be the first time that Brad’s brought this team out of a difficult run,” goalkeeper Tally Hall said. “But no, Brad can’t be the only guy to step on the field and say, ‘Hey, I got this.’ It is and always has been a team sport and we need 11 guys on the field working as one and playing to the best of their abilities.”
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As for his World Cup experience, Davis spoke with a permanent smile on his face. Coming off what he considers a step forward for the USMNT, he spoke highly of his teammates and backed head coach Jurgen Klinsmann as to where the team needs to go next.
“I think sometimes there’s a little too much respect for the other team, and I think that’s what [Klinsmann’s] talking about, rather than going out and stepping on toes right away it’s backing off and giving them respect,” Davis said. “Jurgen may say mentality is something we have to get over and we have to be confident stepping out on the field in the next cycle. It’s saying we can compete at this level no problem.”
And while they’d rather see him in Brazil playing Argentina Saturday, it’s a presence his teammates are happy to have back.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.