Davies, United and Double Redemption

Wednesday, February 02, 2011 | View Comments
- Jason Davis

The possibility that Charlie Davies could spend the year on loan to DC United is a natural marriage brought about by timing, the vagaries of the MLS allocation order system, and a shared need for both to find redemption in 2011.

Charlie Davies wants to play, DC United could do with some positive press. If the former meets his goal and returns to putting the ball in the back of the net in meaningful competition after sixteen months of recovery from terrible car accident that happened to take place in United's backyard, both sides win. Charlie proves he can play. United gets pulled along for the ride, with all the positive press and good feelings inherent therein. In that way, Charlie Davies is more than just another player for DC United, he's a calculated risk.

He has to prove himself fit during his week in Florida first, though there must be some doubt as to whether Ben Olsen and the club would say "No" after agreeing to loan terms and acknowledging the move publicly. Davies has done enough with Sochaux's reserves in recent months to indicate that fitness isn't a continuing problem. The real questions revolve around just what kind of player Davies is at this point, his career and body so dramatically altered by the accident almost a year and a half ago.

Does he have the same quickness? Is he strong enough to handle physical defenders? Has his first touch returned?

If the answers to all of those questions were affirmative, Davies wouldn't be headed to Ft. Lauderdale to join United. No loan would be necessary, and Davies would instead be suiting up for Sochaux each week in Lique 1. Instead, Sochaux has decided it's best he go out on loan, and for a full twelve months, in an effort to regain something of his pre-accident form.

What that means is that it's impossible to know what United is getting in Davies beyond the obvious PR benefit, should the loan be consummated and should he get on the field this season. He is a complete mystery as a player. Davies could be just good enough to handle what MLS throws at him, score 10 or 12 goals, and prove he has a future as a quality professional. He could just as easily come up short in terms of ability, languish on the bench or worse, and become nothing more than a distraction in Ben Olsen's locker room. Very likely is something in the middle, where Davies contributes in small measure as United attempts to climb back up a ladder they finished at the foot of last season.

We know Davies isn't 100 percent, or he'd be in France. Sochaux might have kept him if he was 80 or 90 percent of his old self, indicating an imminent return to his full abilities. At best, Charlie is 70 percent or less of his early-2009 heights. Is a 70 percent Charlie Davies good enough to make an impact in Major League Soccer, especially considering he won't come cheap?

Of course, Davies could make up for his salary, even if he doesn't score in bunches for United, with his effect on ticket sales. A Davies comeback in Washington will bring interest, something the club can be nearly certain about. Whatever Charlie does on the field, his value can't be measured by on his play alone. Without a goal scored he gives the club huge momentum heading into the season; should he play well, a dream scenario for both sides, the impact will be immense. Maybe the Mayor will even take notice.

United was smart to give themselves an out with the one week trial period, leaving themselves free to nix the deal should something unforeseen come up with Davies' fitness. But unless Charlie is flat out incapable of playing soccer at the MLS pace, something that would represent a huge step back from where he has been recently in France, he'll be a United player this season.

For the club, there's nowhere to go but up. They have in place new players who will do much more to decide how far up they go than Charlie Davies will or could. What Davies gives the club, in its new and hopefully improved form, is a dramatic boost in attention. What the club gives Davies is a chance to prove he's good again.

It's a risk for the club, make no mistake, but it's certainly a risk worth taking. Davies will bring exuberance and a sense of purpose to United at the very least, and because we're in the dark as to what kind of player Charlie Davies is sixteen months after the fact, every success will be a pleasant surprise.

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