On Charlie: Skill Gets Him There….. ……Sentiment Draws Our Heart

I wasn’t going to address yesterday’s Bob Bradley comments, but many of you asked TSG to. Our lowest readership comes Friday evenings, so it’s a good time to sneak this one out there.

I really think there is a little too much over-saturation of the Davies’ situation right now; we’re culpable contributors mind you.

Candid...

TSG was invited to yesterday’s event in NY; we tried to make it–couldn’t make it happen. Our apologies.

So the comments and interactions I’m reading are all secondhand. In reading through the reams of copy–if transcribed correctly–it sounded like a refreshingly candid Bob Bradley.

Here’s specifically what Bradley said, courtesy of Grant Wahl:

“Let’s say it’s 100 steps to get back to the same level [that Davies played at before],” Bradley said. “Back to some version of regular training, you can decide what step you think that is. Is that step 60? Is that step 80? And eventually with any athlete those final steps are the hardest steps. So we still need to see where that goes. I’m so thrilled and excited that this is a great story. And Charlie is, as everybody knows for us, a popular guy. He’s a guy that everybody likes. You can’t help but feel that way about him.

“The only part that’s coming up is this: There’s going to be a decision on our end that is simply about the World Cup. I know that’s been one of his motivating forces in this whole thing. Regardless of how that particular decision goes, it’s gonna be important … If at the end he’s at step 80 and we think in order to start that camp he needs to be at 85, that can’t get in the way of him getting back to step 100. So it’s a tricky part because, look, I know what’s on the table right away. I know that a lot of his drive has been with that goal. And that means something to all of us. But at the end of the day, we still have to assess completely where he is as we make decisions, even for the camp.

My thoughts? (and this is most certainly not a column about the never-ending striker options.)

For my part, I’m certain Bradley couldn’t have done any better with the response, in both his recognition and grasp of the situation and the fact that his response was sufficiently ambiguous.

The first thing to remember is that when Bradley broadcasts, it’s not just heard by fans. It’s heard by players and opposing coaches. There is really a very small set of coordinates where a coach’s comments are what he can offer, what he wants to offer, and what is true. For Bob Bradley–think Bill Belichek–it’s really safest not saying anything.

In Bradley’s commentary, I thought it was great that we acknowledged the magnitude of the situation and it’s impact on himself and others.

Teammate bonds: The highest compiment...

In regards to this statement, “If at the end he’s at step 80 and we think in order to start that camp he needs to be at 85, that can’t get in the way of him getting back to step 100m,” I’m still, well, flummoxed.

There is some hypothetical match fitness level (80?) that, according to Coach USA, Charlie Davies needs to be at in order to make camp. Continuing, how “85” gets in the way of “100” is just confusing to me.

But what could Bradley say that would be interpreted correctly by his standards?

What message does it offer for team cohesion if there are different fitness level thresholds for different players. That would only cause conflict.

Why should Bradley comment on one player’s eligibility if the others don’t learn where they stand?

Bradley perhaps paid Davies the highest compliment, if you read into the commentary, that his fitness was just about the only thing holding him back from being there. His comment: “He’s a guy that everybody likes. You can’t help but feel that way about him.”

Usually that statement is followed, “He can always be on my team.”

Why not challenge Charlie further? If his “30-spot” is not guaranteed, maybe you wring that final .01% of extra effort out of him by challenging whether he’ll be ready….so he may be more ready if and when he does come in?

There’s no media benefit for Bob Bradley to saying anything other….especially at a big event yesterday where the entire media is going to broadcast. In short, it’s one of the few events before June where the message will get heard.

So that’s how I read into Bob Bradley’s commentary above. There’s really not much there. I’ll await the action.

80% of Charlie?

On another note, something I’ve heard from broadcasters, friends, fans alike is that “an 80% Charlie Davies is better than 100% of someone else.”

Is some of Davies, better than 100% of someone else? No idea...

I concede that Davies instincts, skillset pre-accident, and feel for the game was the highest of any potential strikers for the US, including Jozy Altidore.

But why do fans feel that statement is an absolute truth?

Should Charlie Davies not be fit to compete at the World Cup level, how can you bring him?

I don’t want him risking his health further. I don’t want any doubt of the players around him if he’s capable of making that run, that play, that shot.

Is Charlie more prone to another injury and leaving the USMNT down a striker if he harms himself, against, say England?

I can make a statement that a pre-October 2009 Davies is easily your best option up top, but an 80% Davies with a month to go. I’ll sleep on that one for now.

Further, a similar comment that I’ve heard and challenge is: “Well if USMNTers see Charlie there, it will push them further.”

I think it’s the other way around. If Charlie Davies isn’t there, there is even more pressure by the players, especially the strikers, to prove their mettle.

Here’s a player who tried to make it back from catastrophic injuries….and he didn’t make the squad. You took his spot. What are you doing to do.

And finally, what do I think as we round into May?

I wrote a piece for Monday before Davies’ announcement–entitled “To Me, It’s the Struggle.” I’ll include the abbreviated portion below.

One of the most touching moments in sports that I can remember in the past few years occurred late at night–I think nearly 2am–during the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

For some reason, I was up, on the couch and the remote settled on MSNBC and the weightlifting competition. If you viewed the clip above you witnessed a little bit of it. Matthias Steiner, who previously had only lifted 203KGs, moved up and claimed the weightlifting gold medal at an astounding 258kgs.

A moment that remains with me...

The clip doesn’t tell the story, but the picture on the right does.

Steiner was on a year long pilgrimage to that win, from the moment his wife died in a car accident the year earlier. He dedicated everything to her.

After the buzzer told him he had succeeded on the final clean-and-jerk, the German lifter came away in a convulsing, primordial celebration–prancing around the stage like a kid. On the medal stand later, he stood–gold medal in one hand, a picture of his late wife in the other.

The jubilation of that moment still palpatably rings through for me–I tear up, I’m not embarrassed to say it, when I watch that video nearly every time, even today.

The next day, I sent it around to my friends and family with no fear of being “that guy who forwards those things.”

That same feeling I have about Charlie Davies’ return….already.

As a journalist–and I try to play one here on TSG–I pose and debate questions all the time about whether Davies is ready, whether his inclusion is merited again in South Africa with the little data we are afforded. Most, if not all, is really conjecture with as best an analytical and logical bent.

But as a fan, the messages from the Sochaux and US star, the tweets, the salutes, are the best tonics to the logic.

To me, Charlie’s kind of done it already–whether he makes the World Cup or not. In the name of his teammates, the fans and himself, he’s pushed to himself to excel. He’s gotten us all to “believe”–that verb is probably the most popular one in CD9 stories here on TSG.

Sports, soccer, it is about relating through human emotion to your fellow person. “Sport” is one of the oldest known ways to bring a community together.

I’ve mentioned it before, but the Davies saga is something that all USMNT fans can unite around. It’s the “thrill of victory and agony of defeat” with more skin.

We all want him in South Africa. For himself. For his teammates. For us, for the emotions we’ve invested in his plight. It’s something completely universal, from die-hards to casual fans. And that’s just plain cool and right.

As a fan, I’m hoping that Chuck D is mixing it up in Rustenberg on June 12th. I imagine I’ll feel the same way I do watching that video.

*Oh and I won’t begrudge Bob Bradley if that doesn’t happen. That’s his job.

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11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by BW on 2010/04/30 at 5:25 PM

    i think Bob meant that not getting into the world cup (being an 80 when 85 is needed) can’t interfere with the goal of getting back to full recovery. in other words, just because the WC has been a huge motivating factor, Charlie can’t just stop and give up if he’s not picked for the squad.

    Reply

  2. Posted by BW on 2010/04/30 at 5:27 PM

    PS….the coach has got to be a journalistic nightmare. His sentence structure is bit broken and jumbled and certainly makes for some awkward quotes.

    Reply

  3. Posted by KMac on 2010/04/30 at 7:19 PM

    I’ll say what I tweeted CD9.. GO CHUCK D GO…Make the 30…Make the 23…Play…score…win. Bless.
    KMac

    Reply

  4. Posted by Joe on 2010/04/30 at 7:36 PM

    Best article you guys have put out yet in my opinion

    Did you guys see the First Take interview with Coach Bob? He says something along the lines of, “We’ll further assess Davies when he gets to camp”
    Not sure what that means..

    Reply

  5. Posted by Bob on 2010/04/30 at 8:22 PM

    To be honest, I am still trying to figure out what BB is saying. According to Ives, BB also said this about CD9: “Oftentimes, within the team, decisions are clearer than people on the outside would understand. There’s an old expression that the team picks the team. That’s pretty true because usually things establish themselves pretty well. Players know who are the ones that should be there, and that kind of thing.” When compared to his very positive assessment of both Gomez and Buddle, it seems that this last quote is preparing us for the fact that CD9 will not go to SA. I hope I am wrong, however, his very long-winded statement about CD9 seems like a guy trying to break up with a really nice unattractive girl.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Paul on 2010/05/01 at 11:28 AM

    Do we know “Is some of Davies, better than 100% of someone else? No idea…”

    I think we have good reason to think that even some of Davies will inspire the team to such heights that he will be better than 100% of strikers (Casey, Finley) who, for various reasons, have not performed well with the national team.

    Soccer is a game played by flesh and blood, not stone and steel. Bradley needs to recogize the tremendous import of Davies’s inclusion on squad morale, and expand his criteria for WC players beyond their actual pitch performance–which, in most cases, provides the most important criteria for going to the Cup. However, this is a case where Davies brings more than just good play; morale is also one of the reasons why England might be vulnerable.

    The morale of the story: criteria for getting to South Africa must be contextually sensative to a number of factors, including impact on morale. From my viewpoint, Davies’s case is meaningfully tied to more than just his ability to health level, especially when we look at the alternatives.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/05/01 at 7:18 PM

      Paul; appreciate the well-worded comments.

      But here is something that people don’t bring up as the continuum here. Why do players like Dempsey Donovan and Gooch and Howard need a morale boost from Davies.

      In essence–and his words not mine–he let them down. I really the US players are already getting the morale boost now…and they want Davies there if we can contribute.

      Reply

      • Posted by Joe on 2010/05/02 at 3:55 PM

        good point; I don’t think guys like Demps, Donovan, or Timmy need that morale boost but I feel like the young guys like Jozy and Edu may be a little sidetracked if he isnt there.

        i can see the tweets from those guys now in South Africa.. “HUGE game tomorrow.. missing my boy @charliedavies”

        Reply

  7. Posted by tnnelson on 2010/05/01 at 11:36 AM

    great post, i really like this read. one thing i’d like to comment on is the inspiration Charlie can and already has brought to this team and all of us as fans. whether he makes it back or not, the incredible dedication he has shown to make it this far and to achieve his dream of playing in the World Cup can do nothing but light a fire under other members of this team. i think everyone needs to take a little bit of what Charlie has done over the past few months and try and re-create that desire that he has for this game inside ourselves. the work ethic that he has shown to even consider playing soccer again is amazing, and we as US fans should take something away from his recovery whether or not he is on the plane come June. we all have to believe, we all have to have hope that we can succeed as a team and as a nation on the pitch this summer, and, for me at least, what Charlie has done already and the dedication he has shown has already given me a sense of hope and belief that we can do great things this summer

    Reply

  8. Posted by Wilson on 2010/05/02 at 1:57 PM

    If Bob Bradley puts out a bad team in South Africa and we fail to make round of 16, I won’t miss him when he gets fired. We had a lot of success in CONCACAF. The problem is our success lead to injuries of good players that he put out there. CD is a fluke. but others like Gooch and Stu got hurt in unimportant matches. Guys in our starting 11. Anyways I just am more eager to hope for Jose Mourinho to come to the USA. Coach that brings great players to amazing players. That is my dream coach. Maybe he’ll realize that Donovan’s success playing the wing will spread to others like Freddy Adu and Clint Dempsey will get to be a forward and other things like real fullbacks start playing for USA.

    Reply

  9. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/05/02 at 10:44 PM

    Goal.com says Bob Bradley is “pessimistic” about Davies chances…see that’s blatantly incorrect.

    Bradley said that hurdles were the hardest. That is why the comments should not be interpreted so much as reported and we should wait for action.

    http://www.goal.com/en-us/news/67/world-cup/2010/04/30/1901778/bob-bradley-pessimistic-about-charlie-davies-world-cup

    Reply

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