HOUSTON – Ten years ago, Brad Davis was a fresh face in a pressure situation.
In his second game with the US men’s national team, Davis found himself alone at the penalty spot with the Gold Cup title on the line. With the chance to end the penalty shootout against Panama, Davis coolly buried his shot into the corner, giving the US the CONCACAF championship.
“I didn’t know it was 10 years ago; thanks for reminding me,” Davis joked. “It was one of the highlights of my career. My first real big opportunity to go with the first team, and to go there and step up in that situation and to be able to close out a tournament like that; without a doubt, a special moment.”
Davis will play in his second Gold Cup this year as one of 23 players named by Jurgen Klinsmann on Tuesday to initiate the US’s run at the tournament. At 33, the 2014 World Cup veteran is no longer the fresh face in camp; instead, he will be counted on to provide experience and leadership to a US team looking for its second straight regional crown.
“[Klinsmann] thought it was really important for me to be involved in this group because of the experience, especially with the CONCACAF teams,” Davis said. “I know the situations are not always the best situations on the field with some players and with refereeing and things like that. I’m very familiar with a lot of these players, and it was important that I could be a part of the group with experience and understanding of the way this tournament goes.
“Jurgen’s been bringing in a lot of new faces, and I think all of the guys have done a good job bringing the standard and their expertise into the group. I’m sure there’s going to be some younger faces, and that’s just our job to continue and help that progression of US soccer.”
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Davis is one of two Houston players called to the Gold Cup, with midfielder Boniek Garcia set to represent Honduras at the tournament. Houston left back DaMarcus Beasley was named to the USMNT’s 35-man preliminary roster for the tournament but was not one of 23 called on Tuesday; he could be called in for the US in the knockout rounds.
In addition to his experience, Davis adds versatility to Klinsmann’s group, as he is capable of playing both on the left side of midfield and in the middle. In addition to starting one game at last summer’s World Cup, the Dynamo captain helped the US qualify for Brazil, playing a role in crushing Panama’s World Cup dreams and saving Mexico’s when he served up the assist for Graham Zusi’s goal in the Americans’ final qualifier in Panama City.
Still, Davis’s last appearance for the USMNT came at last summer’s World Cup, making his inclusion on the Gold Cup roster somewhat of a surprise – just not to Dynamo manager Owen Coyle.
“It doesn’t surprise me. He’s a wonderful player and a very good captain,” Coyle said. “Sometimes you look through the league … and think people are good players, but when they’re not in the team, I think sometimes [people] think and realize what they actually had there.”
Since the World Cup, Klinsmann has committed to a youth movement, with Davis and some other veterans getting a nearly year-long break from the mental and physical rigors of the international game.
“Last year was definitely the hardest year of my career, and it has been nice to recharge the batteries a little bit,” Davis said. “I am excited to get back with the US team, but there was a part of last year that was mentally draining and physically draining as well. I feel good and ready to go back.”
Davis is currently rehabbing a right knee bruise that has kept him out of the Dynamo’s past two games in all competitions. He said on Tuesday he will continue to work to be included in Friday’s Texas Derby clash with FC Dallas (9 pm ET, UniMás, UnivisionDeportes.com) before joining the US squad.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.