On Monday, United States National Team striker Charlie Davies was enjoying the height of his soccer career. He had just played a major part in the country qualifying for its sixth straight World Cup.
By Tuesday, he was in hospital in stable but serious condition.
Davies, 23, was involved in a one-car accident Tuesday on the George Washington Parkway in Virginia. He was airlifted to the Washington Hospital Center Medstar to undergo several hours of surgery to repair a lacerated bladder, fractures to the tibia and femur in his right leg, facial fractures, and a fracture in his left elbow.
According to the U.S Men’s National Team blog, titanium rods were placed in his leg with no complications and he will be hospitalized for at least another week with more surgeries to come to stabilize his elbow fracture and facial fractures.
“The car was pretty much split in half,” U.S. Park Police Sgt. David Schlosser said, according to The Washington Post. The driver of the car was also injured and the other passenger was killed. It is currently unknown what the cause of the accident was and if Davies’ injuries are career-threatening.
“Injuries of this nature usually require a recovery period of six to 12 months and extensive rehabilitation,” said U.S. Soccer physician Dr. Dan Kalbac, on the team’s blog. ”Due to Charlie’s fitness level, his prognosis for recovery and his ability to resume high-level competition is substantially improved.”
This is an extremely sad day for all of U.S. soccer, as Davies is arguably its budding star. After attending Boston College for two years, Davies went to Sweden and played Hammarby, scoring 21 goals in 56 league appearances. In July, he signed with French club Sochaux and has two goals in six league appearances.
While his play abroad has been impressive, his biggest impact has come on the international stage.
The first real glimpse many American fans got of Davies was in the 2008 Summer Olympics, where he came on as a sub in the last game against Nigeria. Needing a tie to advance out of group play, the U.S. were down 2-1. The complexion of the game changed though when Davies entered the pitch.
His incredible speed allowed him to get behind the defense and caused Nigeria fits. In the dying minutes of the game, he put forth a header that struck the crossbar, nearly earning him the equalizer and hero of the tournament status.
It may not have gone in, but Davies was just beginning to leave his mark.
Davies has 17 appearances for the senior national team and has scored four goals, three of them being extremely important and showing Davies’ value for the team.
His first goal came October 15, 2008, in a World Cup qualifying match against Trinidad and Tobago. The team lost 2-1, but Davies goal had tied the game at one all and kept the U.S. in it.
His biggest goal came against Egypt in this past summer’s Confederation’s Cup. The U.S. were all but eliminated, needing to beat Egypt by three or more goals as well as Brazil beating Italy by three or more to advance to the next round.
Jozy Altidore sent in a low cross that the goalie got his hands on but didn’t bring in. Davies, running onto the cross, continued to run through the ball and poked it free towards the goal line. Fighting off two defenders, Davies played with the ball, turned it, and knocked it into the net.
The goal showed an extreme amount of determination and hustle, and it started an offensive blitzkrieg from the U.S. on Egypt. The U.S. wound up winning 3-0, as did Brazil. The U.S. wound up advancing to the finals of the tournament against Brazil, losing 3-2.
His latest goal came in World Cup qualifying against Mexico. This goal is significant because not only the goal give the U.S. a 1-0 lead (they eventually lost the game 2-1), but the game was played at the infamous Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, known for its grueling altitude and hostile crowd that both paralyze opponents.
The 23-year-old became only the fourth American in the history of the game to score against Mexico at Azteca.
It is the heart, hustle, skill, determination, and courage that Davies has displayed on the field and especially on those goals that have made him a special player. Not only do those qualities benefit him, they also rub off on his teammates.
Sometimes, it seems as if leaders like Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey get a bit complacent with their positions on the national team, or the offense is lazy, but never Davies.
No matter the situation, whenever Charlie is sent onto the field, he is buzzing around, posing a serious attacking threat. It makes the game more enjoyable to watch and it makes his teammates excited and they to begin to show that same heart and desire.
The Americans are not the most skilled team in the world, by far. However, what they lack in talent, they make up for in grit and determination. Charlie Davies perfectly symbolized that style of play.
In a recent interview, Davies expressed his firm belief that the U.S. could win the upcoming 2010 World Cup in South Africa—even before they had even qualified for it.
“I think we showed we have the potential to really make an impact at the World Cup. If we are all playing well, with the players we have and if we are all on the same page there is no reason why we couldn't win a World Cup that's for sure,” he said.
While it is a long-shot, it isn’t impossible, especially after some of the performances the U.S. has put on against top-competition recently, mainly Brazil, Spain, and Argentina. Improbable or not, I want my players to truly believe that they can win, otherwise why play at all?
This statement was not naivety, nor was it cockiness. It was simply a player make a statement about the confidence in himself, his team, and their abilities.
Davies has also been very interactive and grateful with his fans, with Twitter and Facebook pages dedicated to helping him reach out to those that support him.
Leadership can come from the most unexpected places sometimes. A youngster and newcomer to the team, Davies’ play on the field and his attitude and the way he carries himself off of it truly make him a leader and an example of what American soccer players should strive to be like.
Alas, all that Davies brings to the table will now be missed, for quite some time. While nothing has been made official, it is only practical that he miss this summer’s World Cup. The most important thing for him though is to make a full recovery, to be healthy. Soccer can wait; there are more important things in life.
I will choose not to speculate who will take his spot in the lineup or how the team will learn to play without him. Rather, I choose to make this a wish of all the other players.
I hope that they play with Davies’ heart, hustle, and determination, because it is that desire that Davies brought to the team and will help them succeed.
I also hope that the players, as well as any other normal person, recognize that anything can happen, and your life can be altered in the blink of an eye, so not to take anything for granted, whether it be your status on the playing field, or more important things such as your friends, your family, or your life.
One day you can be on top of the world, only for the world to crash down on top of you the next.
Fans can send Davies their thoughts and get-well wishes to his e-mail account, email@example.com, and the messages will be printed and delivered to him.