When Charlie Davies, the USA striker, was involved in a car crash that nearly killed him seven months ago, doctors estimated his recovery would take a year, essentially ending his World Cup hopes. He had other ideas. Now, after months of rehabilitation, soul-searching and hard work, Davies is on the verge of an amazing comeback in time to make Bob Bradley's squad for the tournament in South Africa.
"I've had milestones where I've had huge accomplishments," Davies said in a telephone interview this week from France, where he has resumed full training with his club, Sochaux. "I really can't be satisfied or happy until I reach my final goal, which is to get into a match before the season ends and then play with the US." A preliminary, 30-man World Cup squad is due to Fifa by Tuesday and that will be cut to a final 23-man list by June 1.
Though Bradley is happy with Davies's progress, he sounded sceptical that the 23-year-old would be fit in time. Davies has to prove he is fit enough. He was not ready to start for Sochaux against Montpellier last night and has played since October 10. The French side have just two games left this season. "The final steps are the hardest steps," Bradley said. "We still need to see where that goes."
Davies's performances in World Cup qualifying and at the Confederations Cup last year made him an integral part of the US squad. Then, on October 13, a car crash on the George Washington Parkway in Virginia left a passenger dead and Davies, also a passenger, with devastating injuries. His left elbow was broken and dislocated. His right femur, tibia and fibula were broken, as were his nose and eye socket. He had a ruptured bladder, and bleeding on the brain. Doctors said it would take 12 months to recover.
"When I heard that, the first thing that went through my mind is, 'Oh, no way. I'll be back sooner'," said Davies. He was released from the hospital on November 10 and by December he was walking again. Davies admits there were times he got discouraged. He barely slept the first two months after the accident, unable to stop thinking about the crash and the choices that had put him in the car in the first place. Although he was not driving, he had broken curfew, knowing he would not be playing in the last, meaningless World Cup qualifier.
"For the first couple of months, I beat myself up every day," said Davies, who apologised to Bradley and his teammates. "You grow from these things, and they understand I'm deeply sorry." After surgery on his elbow in February that allowed him to bend his arm again, Davies returned to France. A week ago, he resumed full training and his teammates wasted no time welcoming him back. A tackle from one of them sent Davies flying. "When I hit the ground, the only thing I thought was, 'Wow. That felt so good to be tackled'," he said, laughing. * AP