It's different now. Everyone knows it. But the altered reality will not stop the former U.S. international forward from trying to establish a foothold at his hometown club.FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Charlie Davies returned to MLS to prove himself again. His career stalled after he parted ways with D.C. United at the end of the 2011 season. He scored 11 goals in 26 league appearances in that campaign, finding ways to hit the back of the net even without the electric pace he deployed before that fateful October night four years ago.
The domestic success never translated to Europe, though. He toiled in the Sochaux reserves upon his return to France and waited for a starting chance that never truly arrived at Randers FC. He faced another season like the difficult one he just endured – 23 appearances, three starts, zero league goals – if he decided to stay in Denmark. He opted to pursue a loan move to a club where he could live in his Boston-area home and show he still possessed the ability to contribute at a high level.
“That's another reason why I wanted to come here: I wanted to come back to the United States and prove that I have gotten much better since I last played here with D.C. United,” Davies said after his first training session with the Revs on Tuesday. “I really feel like it's time to come back here and show that I'm not hiding and that I haven't gone away. I still have a lot to offer. I want to continue to get better. I think this is the perfect place for me to come.”
Familiarity and proximity certainly provide a foundation for Davies to excel, but he plans to add a little bit of his European knowledge into the mix as well. He contends he isn't the same forward who featured regularly with United two years ago. He spent the interim period honing his physical skills and supplementing them with the awareness and intelligence required to pose more of a threat in the final third.
“I think I've definitely gotten faster,” Davies said. “I've gotten stronger as well. I have more experience. People tend to forget that after the accident, I had to learn how to walk again, how to eat again. Forget about soccer, just doing the normal, everyday activities. When I came back to soccer, the things that came to me as second nature weren't there. Your instinct is one thing, but I think to actually make your body do it, it's been difficult. Over the past couple of years, I'm finally starting to get it back. It's making a big difference for me.”
The strides helped him enough to bring him to this decision and steer him back to MLS. The entire move – from first entreaties to final signatures – occurred in the past two weeks. Davies wanted to play for the Revolution. Randers FC and MLS consented to the loan deal. And the Revolution wanted him to provide an alternative to the options already in house.
“I think it's important on this one that it was both club and player,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “We're excited about the opportunity. Charlie's from the area. There have been times that we've talked about bringing him back, but it had to be aligned. I think the timing was right and the situation was right.”
The opportunity to turn this opening into a permanent partnership remains firmly at Davies' feet. He arrives with no guarantees. He must carve out playing time (both Davies and Heaps mentioned he could play either in the middle or in one of the two modified wide roles, a necessity with Juan Agudelo poised to return from injury) and prove his match fitness. He must figure out a way to find his footing quickly and score a couple goals to fire his new team to the playoffs.
“That's why I wanted to come here: to play,” Davies said. “That's the main thing. I want to get better and help this team win. It's a great feeling. It's a relief to be home, to be in front of people I know. I played with Jay in the 2009 Gold Cup. I've also played against him. I think it's the perfect situation for me to thrive. I look forward to the challenge.”
There is no gliding behind the line, leaning on pure athleticism to escape those formidable hurdles now. But those perceived limitations will not prevent Davies from attempting to prove himself again and justify his belief in his ability to succeed with the Revolution for some time to come.