CARSON, Calif. – A year ago, Brad Davis was worried. He worried that his chance with the U.S. national team had passed him by. He worried Jurgen Klinsmann didn't value his skill set. He worried leading the league in assists in 2011 and finishing as a finalist for the MLS MVP award weren't enough.
Despite no immediate resolution, those concerns gradually eased. The winger put his head down and focused on his career with the Houston Dynamo, forgetting about the international level.
"The longer it didn't come I just tried to put it on the back burner a little bit and just focus on my club team and really put everything there, not worry about if the call is going to come, when the call is going to come, why I wasn't getting called in, things of that nature," Davis said. "All I could worry about was what I was doing."
And after he stopped actively pining for the U.S. jersey, Klinsmann handed him one. The 31-year-old made the roster for the January training camp in California, a full three years after his last international involvement.
The mostly MLS roster will train for nearly three weeks at the Home Depot Center before taking on Canada in a friendly in Houston. For most, it's a chance to show they belong on the Gold Cup or World Cup qualifying squads. For Davis, it's a last chance.
"They bring a seriousness to the table," Klinsmann said of Davis and the handful of other veterans in camp. "They know that time is not on their side, so they give everything they have in order to get a shot toward Brazil 2014. This inspires the younger ones."
Davis says his goal is to "get called into as many camps as possible, make it difficult for Jurgen to pass me up." His international career up to this point is sporadic. He has four caps: two from the 2005 Gold Cup and one each from January camps in 2008 and 2010.
In some ways, Davis has worked half a decade for another shot. "I've really tried to push myself the past four or five years to get better and make this next step," he said. Back then, Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear approached him and pointed out that the team needed him on the field, and that meant improving his fitness so that the coach felt comfortable leaving him in matches.
Davis responded well, working to add stamina to a cultured left footed delivery.
"I'm a little bit older, I'm smarter, I'm definitely fitter than I ever was," Davis said. "I feel better now than when I first came into the league, which is kind of weird. I wish we had the things that we have now as far as being able to take care of ourselves, the dietitians and all that kind of stuff."
The numbers show his improvement. In each of the past four seasons, Davis has hit double-digit assists. He only broke that barrier once in the seven seasons prior.
"He has excellent technique," Klinsmann said. "His vision on the field is really special. And then he can hit set pieces really well. He has weapons others don't have. As a coach you try to put your puzzle together and supplement it everywhere in every position. We're happy to have him now in this group. He's very, very hungry to show his strengths."
The knock against Davis is that he's too slight of build for the international level. That's for Klinsmann to decide. All the Missouri native can do is capitalize on his chance in camp to improve as much as possible.
"You're always trying to find new ways to get better yourself and push yourself," Davis said. "I just look at this as one of those opportunities to continue to push my level of play. I'm never satisfied; I don't think any players are ever satisfied with where they're at. They're always trying to get better and improve."
For Davis, career improvement likely involves the international stage. He is already established as one of the most consistently deadly weapons in MLS. He's helped the Dynamo to four MLS Cup finals in seven years, losing two in two years to the LA Galaxy.
"Now losing these past two, it's kind of had a bitter taste," Davis said. "It's one of those things where if that moment happens to come again you don't want to let it slip. The older you get the less opportunity that those things are possibly going to happen."
Davis has too much experience to let more MLS Cups, or international camps, go to waste.
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