63rd minute. 1-0 game. One chance to do what he does best. One chance to step up to the mark, silence the doubters, and prove all the hard work was worth it. One chance to go back to the way it was. One chance to change everything.
It was hard to fight back the overflowing waves of water in my eyes when Charlie Davies slotted home his first professional goal in over 15 months for DC United. On a cold October evening in Arlington, VA, Davies was severely injured in a fatal car crash hours before a USMNT match in 2009. While the crash did not erase Davies' life, it most certainly should have cut short a career filled with potential. Davies was given the chance to live, and we all were hoping he made the most out of his opportunity.
Davies began extreme rehabilitation with the USMNT trainers and was determined to return for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Such a quick return seemed unfathomable in October, but in February a possible World Cup showing for Davies was a decent possibility. A dispute between his club and the USSF however left Davies off the USMNT's final squad for South Africa in June. He wasn't given the chance.
Davies then looked forward to playing with French Club FC Sochaux at the beginning of the 2010 season. Fully recovered from his injuries, the American striker was suspected to be a key contributor to the Sochaux attack. However, Davies was rarely selected for first-team action and spent most of his short tenure watching from the sidelines. He wasn't given the chance.
With few options left and time running out, Davies returned to where the whole story began. On February 15, 2011, Davies went on loan to historic MLS club DC United (three miles from Arlington, VA) to hopefully get his career back on track. Having gone more than a year without playing in a professional game, the expectations for the young forward were more mixed than a tie-dyed T-shirt. Finally, Davies was blessed with the chance to change his career. All that stood between him and revival was 12 yards, two posts and a keeper.
Right to the back of the net. The goal wasn't particularly pretty. Far from it. In fact, if there was a word to describe Davies' soft-placed kick, it would be "lucky." Lucky that Will Hesmer dove the wrong way. Lucky that he was allowed to take the penalty as a substitute. Lucky for him to be even playing professional soccer.
All that doesn't matter, however. There is no physical difference between Davies' soft-stroke and Giovanni van Bronckhorst' "firecracker" from 40 yards. In the statistics, a goal is a goal.
This goal, however, was worth more than just another number up on the scoreboard. It touched the hearts of the millions of fans who followed his recovery over those long 15 months. It filled the confidence of Davies, who had been through the longest goal-drought of his professional career. Finally, it sparked the resurgence of Charlie Davies as an American soccer star. At DC United, Davies was given the chance, and he was determined to capitalize.
Davies is no longer viewed as just an American soccer player. He is an American soccer hero. His determination to fight for what he loved inspired all who followed his remarkable path to recovery. Davies got the chance to get his career back in the fast lane, and he certainly succeeded. When will the next time be when CD9 gets to do the Stanky Legg with Jozy Altidore?
We'll know soon enough.