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For Charlie Davies, Long Comeback Continues At The MLS Cup

By Michael Lewis | Dec. 05, 2014, 3:03 p.m. (ET)

Charlie Davies celebrates after his second goal in the second half during Leg 2 of the MLS Eastern Conference game at Gillette Stadium on Nov. 29, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

TORRANCE, Calif. -- Some comebacks take longer than others.

Five years after suffering a horrific off-field injury, New England Revolution striker and 2008 U.S. Olympian Charlie Davies is still on the comeback trail.

Thanks to his persistence, Davies has played a vital role in the Revolution’s march to this Sunday’s MLS Cup at the StubHub Center in nearby Carson, California.

After a rather underachieving Major League Soccer regular season, the fleet forward scored both goals in New England’s 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls in the second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday. Coupled with the Revolution’s 2-1 win in the first leg, the draw gave the team a 4-3 victory in the aggregate series.

Davies also gave the Red Bulls’ defense headaches as a living nightmare.

“He moved a lot, whether it was on the edges of the 18(-yard box) or in the middle of the 18,” Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles. “He created a lot of havoc for not only our center backs, but our entire defense.”

That the 28-year-old Davies has been able to recapture some of his former magic might be considered a miracle in itself.

“For me, personally, it’s unimaginable really,” he said. “These five years, really just grinding it out. Things would go against me and there’s a lot of tears and pain, but through it all I just continued to fight and stay with it, and things have turned out for the best.”

During his short yet productive tenure with the U.S. Olympic Under-23 Team and the U.S. national team, Davies’ stunning speed terrorized defenders and goalkeepers. Just as important was when he didn’t have the ball, as his presence and runs helped stretch opposing defenses, giving the likes of Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore a little more room to roam. Even a little extra room at the international level can be vital in close games.

Ironically, perhaps his most vital goal came through his persistence, rather than speed, when he scored the first goal in a 3-0 win over Egypt, a result that propelled the United States into the semifinals of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa.

But any thoughts of returning to South Africa a year later at the FIFA World Cup were squashed on Oct. 13, 2009, when Davies, while breaking U.S. team curfew, was a passenger in a car accident on the George Washington Parkway in northern Virginia in which a women died.

Davies suffered a ruptured bladder, a fractured elbow, broken tibia and femur and facial injuries, so just getting back onto the field was going to be an achievement.

He was far from the same Charlie Davies who left defenders in the dust when he scored 15 goals in the Swedish league in 2008. So he moved from Sochaux (France) to D.C. United (MLS) on loan, back to Sochaux to Randers (Denmark) to finally the Revolution. While on loan to United in 2011, Davies scored 11 goals in 26 games.

The Revolution decided to take a chance on Davies, who scored four goals in as many games after joining the team late last season. Coach Jay Heaps was willing to be patient with the former Boston College standout, especially after Davies tallied only three times in 18 matches this past season.

“I knew we were going to keep him last year even though he wasn’t playing,” Heaps said. “I told him, ‘2013 might not be your year, but 2014 is going to be your year.’ So in the offseason we talked a lot about the way he was going to come in. He came into preseason flying, then picked up a hamstring injury that really set him back. I credit Charlie on all of it.

“We gave him a stable environment, but he was fighting for his position every day from the time his injury happened ... that when he did get his chance, the staff was rooting for him, the entire team was rooting for him. I think he’s been the inspirational guy that when he did get his chance, you could see guys rooting for him. I think that’s a pretty amazing story.”

Davies and his Revolution teammates will do their best to play the role of spoiler on Sunday. The opposing Los Angeles Galaxy will be looking to create a Hollywood ending to the storied career of Donovan, the 2000 U.S. Olympian and all-time leading scorer in U.S. men’s national team history, who will play in his final competitive match in the MLS Cup.

“It’s amazing to be in my first MLS Cup,” Davies said. “This franchise has been there three or four times and hasn’t won yet. For us to finally get a chance to win one would be extremely special, especially since I grew up (around Boston). Bringing a championship back to Boston would be the ultimate goal and something we hope we can do. I think all have the confidence that if we go out and play the way we can that we can make that happen.

Michael Lewis, who covers soccer for Newsday, has written about the sport for four decades and has written six books about soccer. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Charlie Davies