HOUSTON – When Brad Davis showed up to the Houston Dynamo locker room before his first training session after helping the USMNT to a win over Panama which saved Mexico’s World Cup hopes, he was greeted with trinkets and music courtesy of teammates intent on not letting his newfound hero status south of the border go unnoticed.
Now, Davis is hoping he left the same type of impression north of the border.
In just more than 34 minutes on the pitch, Davis put on a man-of-the-match-type performance, assisting on the Americans' first two goals in a 3-2 win that shook up the CONCACAF qualification table. Davis is hoping the impression he left on head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is as big as the one he left on his neighbors to the south.
“I think I left a good lasting impression,” Davis said. “Once you get to that level, it’s about an opportunity and making the most of it and being consistent. I’m happy with where we’re at right now.”
Davis has spent 2013 working his way into Klinsmann’s plans, starting with a call into the January camp. Since then, he has made five World Cup qualifying appearances, including helping to see out a historic point in Mexico City in March against the nation whose World Cup hopes he ultimately helped to save.
Still, heading into the game in Panama, Davis knew he was standing on the fringes of Klinsmann’s roster for Brazil.
With only a handful of friendlies between now and next summer, the Panama game was Davis’s time to shine. And even though his seat is still far from guaranteed, especially considering the USMNT’s crowded midfield, his substitute appearance was a fine way to cap a year of World Cup action.
“I’ve been a part of the qualifiers and gotten some games … and some good minutes,” Davis said. “I feel good and was really happy about the performance by the team and everybody. Now we look forward to Brazil.”
His late work against Panama will surely give Klinsmann a lot to think about. The corner Davis floated to the head of Michael Orozco Fiscal for the opening goal was good, but Davis upstaged himself with his sublime first-time ball to the head of Graham Zusi – San Zusi as he's now been dubbed by Mexican fans – in stoppage time to guarantee a result.
“I think it’s taken for granted at the club level,” Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear said of Davis’ skill. “Everyone says, ‘Oh, Brad’s got a good left foot,’ and now everyone’s paying attention to it because now he’s on a national stage.
“He’s been working hard to get this chance and take advantage of it,” Kinnear continued. “He’s put himself, hopefully, at the front of the line going to Brazil, and that’s a good thing to see.”
Regardless of whether he’s on the trip to Brazil, Davis will always have the trinkets from his teammates to remember his best night in a USMNT uniform.
“It was great,” Davis said of his teammates' welcome. “I walked in, and the lights were off, and I had candles and a little shrine. It was good, it was funny.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.