Charlie Davies is about to get a second chance.
The striker who enticed hungry US soccer fans and then nearly lost his life in a horrific car crash will continue his captivating career rebirth in a D.C. United uniform in 2011.
The club announced Wednesday that it has signed Davies on loan for the 2011 MLS season after a successful trial in which the forward flashed moments of promise worthy of the hype that first made him a star less than two years ago.
“I'm extremely excited about the opportunity to play for D.C. United and to put on that shirt,” Davies said in a statement. “I remember watching MLS as a kid and seeing D.C. United as the top team in the league. This is a dream to be able to play for such a prominent organization.”
Davies, 24, is currently under contract with French side Sochaux, but his recovery from that now infamous October 2009 car accident effectively left him on the outside of the club’s first-team plans last year and wanting minutes elsewhere.
He arrived in DC camp earlier this month and was received with a flurry of interest surrounding his week-long trial, but both he and United head coach Ben Olsen approached met the frenzy with measured expectations.
“As far as on the field, it’s just to show that I’m back as far being physically able to contribute,” Davies said during a press conference on Feb. 4. “And be the player that I was before. So whether that’s using my speed, creating chances, scoring goals. All of the above that I do. That’s just being out there and being the player that I am.”
Davies performed well during the trial and was one of the fitter members in DC camp thanks to his recent training in Europe, and he proved that he can provide a spark for a United team in need. He scored and set up a goal in 74 minutes of action in a 5-1 win over the Canadian U-20 national team in the team’s preseason opener, and then added two second-half goals in a win over the Trinidad and Tobago U-20 national team last Saturday.
That was a welcome sight for D.C. United, who had the most anemic offense in the league in 2010. The club scored just 21 goals in 30 games last season and was the first team eliminated from postseason contention, a surprising nadir in Washington even after missing the playoffs in 2008 and 2009.
[inline_node:327656]“I need somebody [at forward] now,” Olsen told ExtraTime Radio earlier this month.
“Unfortunately, we can’t afford to have a guy who’s not ready to go and 100 percent to help this team win games," he added. "That’s just where we’re at as a club.”
The club has made a number of recent moves to rebuild their offensive attack, parting ways with Danny Allsopp, Adam Cristman and Argentine youngster Pablo Hernández during the offseason. All-time MLS leading scorer Jaime Moreno also left the club after an emotional final season in Washington, leaving the club without the icon that was the strongest bridge back to the club’s glory days of the late 1990s and their most recent MLS Cup title in 2004.
Now they have a different icon in Davies, who caught the attention of US fans with solid and surprising performances during the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa and a memorable goal against Mexico at Azteca Stadium later that summer.
Those flashes seemed enough to crown Davies as the forward American fans were yearning for ahead of last summer’s World Cup, but the car crash that killed a female passenger also nearly ended Davies’ career in an instant.
Davies has not played a first-team or US international match since the accident, although he played for Sochaux’s reserve team upon his return to health last year.
Despite the foot-long scar on his abdomen and others that wind along his scalp and down his right leg, Davies insists he’s fit to play, and United’s medical staff is in agreement. The club said before the trial that Davies would need to pass a medical clearance before any loan deal could be completed.
“Charlie spent 10 days with us in our first preseason camp and underwent a full battery of physical and medical testing," general manager Dave Kasper said in a statement. "He simply looks terrific. Coming in, we weren’t sure where he would be, but he’s great physically, has impressed with his mental approach and we’re excited to see him on the field with us this season.”
Davies and D.C. United return to preseason action on Saturday against the Ventura County Fusion in Ventura, Calif. They’ll take part in the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, S.C. from March 5-12 before opening the regular season at home against the Columbus Crew on March 19.