Up until late Thursday morning, Brad Davis was the player so many Sporting Kansas City fans loved to hate.
They hated his chippiness on the pitch. Hated his middle fingers, which he showed the rowdy Cauldron section at least once. (To be fair, that was a two-sided exchange of digits.) Hated the way he kept pounding dangerous balls into the penalty area for the team that ended Kansas City's MLS Cup playoff runs in 2011 and 2012.
And now, he's one of theirs – with the very real possibility that the longtime Houston Dynamo captain, now 34 and in the late stages of his career, will retire in Sporting Blue.
How's that going to work out for the veteran midfielder?
Davis laughed – and then said all the right things – when asked that question during a conference call following the announcement of his trade to Sporting for future MLS SuperDraft picks.
“I think that part's great,” he said. “I mean, fans make the game. They're the ones that are passionate about it. They loved to hate me because we've had some great games, and I've been in the middle of victories for the Dynamo, and we've gone back and forth. But I think it's a fantastic fan base. I really do. It's always engaging when you go to those games. The atmosphere has always been great.”
And, Davis said, some fans began to reach out shortly after the deal was announced.
“They've already been sending me messages: 'Sorry about the things we said to you in the past. Welcome.' So it's part of it,” he said. “I'm looking forward to getting into the stadium and trying to contribute. It'll be fun.”
Davis also clashed several times with his new teammates, over the years, most recently taking a shot from midfielder Roger Espinoza in a match in 2015. All water under the bridge, he said during Thursday's conference call – even though he couldn't resist slipping in a joke.
“I'm a guy that's just passionate on the field. If you really know me, off the field I'm a pretty laid-back guy. That stuff doesn't bother me whatsoever. I just get on with it. I just take it as guys competing and wanting to win. I'm on one side, they're on the other, but it's just two teams competing and wanting to win and doing whatever it takes at that moment. I might have to walk in the locker room the first day with a set of boxing gear on. We'll get hold of this right away.
“But no, honestly, I'm fine with it. I think it's good, and all it comes down to is that it actually sets a good example for me, because it's just guys competing and wanting to win. That's the type of group I want to be a part of.”
And he intends to be an immediate part of it – something Davis said manager Peter Vermes stressed to him before the deal was completed.
“He was like, 'I don't want you to come in here and feel like you have to ease your way in and fit in with the guys. I want you to come in and be exactly who you are and who you've been – a guy who's going to compete, not be afraid to say things when things need to be said, and try and help us win any way possible,'” Davis said. “That was basically the gist of it, so that's what I'm going to try to do. I'm going to try to come in and be me right off the bat and hit the ground running.”
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Davis doesn't intend to be pigeonholed as an aging set-piece specialist, though, even though service from restarts has always been a key component of his game, with 131 assists in regular-season and postseason MLS action. And with the addition of free agent Justin Mapp earlier this offseason, and Benny Feilhaber's career-best year for Sporting in 2015, Davis knows he'll need to be multidimensional to play a significant role in a midfield corps crowded with veterans.
“By no means do I think that's the only thing to my game,” he said. “Is that's something that I'm known for? Yes. I also get service into the box from the run of play, and I've also played in the middle and scored goals and had plenty of assists from playing a 4-3-3 when I was in Houston. I was actually quite successful in that formation.
“So wherever Peter sees fit and whatever that might be in whatever capacity, I feel like I'm going to be able to create and help and score and get assists in different ways beside set pieces. I've been able to do it throughout my career. I don't see why I won't be able to do it with this club, either.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.