Never before has riding the bench meant so much.

Charlie Davies made Sochaux's 18-man roster for their game with Bordeaux today. He didn't play, and the two sides drew 1-1, but the American striker's presence alone made it a monumental day in his comeback from injuries suffered in a deadly auto accident last October. Charlie Davies, a man who required metal parts and facial surgery just to become whole again, is back as a top-flight professional soccer player.

Think about it for a second. Really think.

The impact of Charlie's December accomplishment is less than it should have been, in part because of the roller-coaster both he and fans have been on over the past 14 months. Charlie is headstrong - he was before the accident and he might be more now - which means we've already had a few false dawns. Charlie thought he was ready when he wasn't back in June while Bob Bradley was desperately looking for strikers to take to South Africa. American fans jumped the gun on his re-introduction to the National Team post-World Cup.

Then there was Charlie's automotive adventures in the French countryside, when he foolishly let a teammate talk him into taking the rap for a speeding ticket. Questions followed. Had he not learned from what he went through? Why should we invest so much of our faith in a player who flaunted his good fortune by putting himself in a dangerous situation again?

That's mostly forgotten now, of course. In the end it was stupid, but hardly reason to give up on Charlie. He's still our guy. We still believe in him. You don't watch three-quarters of a movie like this only to walkout when the main character is on the verge of reaching his goal.  Charlie kept his head down and his nose to the grindstone, worked hard in training and with the reserves and gave us periodic updates when they were warranted.  The interviews seemed to slow.  Instead of hearing how close he was, we had to guess.

Today (well yesterday when we found out he would be dressed) was therefore a pleasant surprise.

Of course, if this were a movie today's tease wouldn't be part of the story. In the movie, Charlie is called up to the first team, enters late in the match with his team ties or a goal down, and scores a magnificent goal to complete his fairytale comeback from life-threatening injuries. As Charlie does his Stankylegg celebration - a dance move that only the story of CD9 is keeping alive at this point - the music hits a crescendo, his teammates mob him, and the credits roll.

Real life makes us wait. Real life requires patience, both for Charlie to get in a game and for his comeback to be truly complete. In a very real way, we could say that the moment Charlie does step on the field for Sochaux in a Ligue 1 game is when his story really begins. Yes, he's done the hard work of rehabbing, training himself into shape and convincing his manager he's ready to contribute, but it will take playing well - and scoring since it's in his job description - before we know if the accident will prevent him from fulfilling the potential he showed in 2009.

The question that no one should ask based on today's events is "When will Charlie be back with the USMNT?"  Let's take this, like Charlie is, one step at a time.  Today Charlie became a first team player again.  Next week, or after the French break, or at some point in the future, he'll play.  Some time after that, we hope, he'll be completely adjusted to the speed and level of play.  Once that happens, Bradley will bring him back into the fold.  Until then, we wait, with expectations vibrating.

Though he didn't play, today was a big step for Charlie Davies.  It makes it that much easily to believe he'll take all of the steps in due course. 

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