It’s 5:30AM PST and I’m about to get on the phone with Charlie Davies.
Charlie gets on the phone.
A cheery “Bon Jour!” follows.
“Bon Jour, Charlie, how are you?”
“I’m good, man; I’m good.”
He should be the tired one.
While the rest of Charlie answers come through–dare I say–fatigued from repetition, there are morsels of dialogue that suggest the spirit of Davies–you know the one that proclaimed back on October 7th 2009 the United States fit to hoist the World Cup–has not dulled an iota since that date. In fact, if you read a little further, you’ll find that proclamation barely recalibrated.
Statements like, “We’ve got a chip on our shoulder from the Confederation Cup when we lost to Brazil, to watch them dance around on the field after they beat us. We still have some unfinished business.”
“We’ve got a good team (FC Sochaux), capable of playing in Europe. It was unfortunate this season. I think we underachieved. But next year, we’re going to take a good stab at getting a place to compete in Europe.”
Same Charlie spirit. More pensive but every bit as determined.
Now, the rest of the conversation with the US striker whose body and World Cup candidacy appeared to rudely fall apart one fateful night last October.
TSG: You must be just inundated with media requests and lots of work, how many more interviews do you have today?
Charlie Davies: A few I think.
TSG: I’ll keep our time short. (Sorry Charlie, completely lied on this one).
CD: Appreciate it.
TSG: Let me get this one out of the way quickly here. There have been a lot of reports, erroneous reports it would appear, conjecture, about your “readyness” this week. Care to make a statement on that?
CD: I’m doing everything I possibly can to make sure I try to get into a match before the end of this year. It’s been stated that I had no chance.
Of course my president thought a month ago, my president thought I wouldn’t be able to get back on the field.
I’ve come a long way and I still have a little ways to go, but I think I’ll be ready to play in a match.
I still have a little ways to go, but I expect to play.
TSG: So the May 15th game at home, you expect to be passed fit for that final game?
CD: I do expect to. I’m really keen on getting into that last match.
TSG: Do you expect to make the World Cup 30-man roster next week? (This interview was conducted on May 6th.)
CD: I hope to.
I’m just hoping I just get a chance to get into the camp, continue to progress and hopefully step into camp feeling great and working hard. And then of course it’s about getting into that final 23.
It’s been my goal since getting out of the hospital bed and into a wheelchair, since getting on crutches. Training.
All this pain. I don’t think I worked this hard to come up short.
I’ll make sure if I get called up, I’ll be ready.
TSG: Are you still in pain at all?
CD: I’ve been extremely lucky not to have any setbacks. I haven’t experienced pain for two or three months now. When I’m working out I feel nothing. I feel good; I feel great.
That’s been a huge help because in the beginning I felt tendonitis and had some aches and pains. But in the past two months I haven’t felt any pain and that’s been a huge success for me because I’ve been able to do more.
TSG: I’m going to step back now and we’ll try to run through some things in chronological.
I’ve been wanting to ask you this question for awhile. Since before your injury.
(The Counterattack Heard Round The World)
You and Landon combined for what TSG calls “The Counterattack Heard Round the World.” You became only the 4th US guy to score in the Azteca…that goal on a pretty slip pass from Landon. Would you say you guys have special chemistry on the field, you and Donovan?
CD: Yeah, of course, I would say. Landon is a player that’s had so much experience.
I think on the field we get a good feel for each because my speed can open up so much space for him in the midfield and vice versa. We have a good understanding between us for where we need to be, where we want to be and where the ball needs to be.
We’ve definitely had a good connection with that, but we’re looking to build off it as well.
TSG: Getting to your fateful evening, I know you answered this question so I apologize, but….it’s Washington D.C. on a Monday night. It’s not exactly South Beach, Miami on a Saturday. What the heck were you doing out? What was your impetus?
CD: I was just really excited we qualified and I knew I wasn’t playing in the game on Wednesday.
I got a little overwhelmed and too excited. I wasn’t thinking clearly.
I paid dearly.
It’s something you regret. You learn from it. You grow from it.
I’ll be better for it.
TSG: Thanks for answering that one again Charlie. After your injury, fans as you know got together and, gosh, a million #9s came out against Costa Rica. I’ve been a USMNT fan for a long time. I can’t remember an event like that, nor can I remember a player having such a galvanizing effect on the fanbase.
Do you recognize the impact you have on the fans?
CD: Yeah, I do.
Seeing all the number 9s was just amazing and seeing it in MLS games as well because I never played in MLS. That was something that was really special to me as well seeing the support from the US fans.
All the letters, all the gifts. It means a lot to me. It shows me how much people care.
It’s pushed be further. When I was going through the pain, it pushed me further and gave me the motivation to get things done.
Hopefully, I can inspire people when things don’t go your way, things happen you weren’t expecting that you can still grow from it, bounce back from it and become a better person, a stronger person.
TSG: You’ve said before you need to get back and show your teammates. What do you need to do to make things right with your teammates?
CD: Just get back on the field and doing the things I used to do. Once I get into the swing of things and I’m back, then my next goal is I want to be better.
I could see what it could become in South Africa. What the US could become if we were always on the same page and play the great soccer that the US is capable of playing. For me it’s just getting back on the field celebrating goals together like we used to.
TSG: During your recovery, were there any simple things you did when you got down?
CD: Sleep? (Laughs)
I was doing double, triple sessions everyday. My girlfriend was helpful with the mental aspect.
Oguchi Onyewu had a huge part as well. We were together for the first couple months and just
talking to both of them.
They helped me get through it.
Sometimes I would feel like I’m not making enough progress and I was like “I’m not where I need to be.”
I was like, “If I want to be in the World Cup I need to be further.”
If I felt frustrated, they pointed out the small things I was doing better than before. That was very helpful.
TSG: Do you kind of worry at all that your story overshadows what the team is trying to accomplish this year?
CD: No, not all. The guys are a great, great, great group of teammates.
They’ve talked with me throughout the whole process. They’ve helped me since day one. Calling me, sending txt messages. Making sure I’m alright and making sure I’m where I need to be on the road to recovery.
If I’m able to get back, I feel like it would be more of a celebration for everyone because they all helped me get back.
At the same time we want to achieve more than we did at the Confederation’s Cup. We have something to prove. It’s almost like a chip on our shoulders after that finals loss that was so painful to Brazil.
Watching Brazil dance around right after they beat us right on the field. I still think we all have that feeling. And we know what we’re capable of doing and we can still be in a World Cup final.
TSG: We’ve heard from Bob Bradley on where he thinks you need to be in terms of conditioning, fitness to get into camp. Have they given you any hard milestones at all–your mile time, some agility drills, strength and conditioning tests, 10 minutes of stanky leg–that you need to accomplish for them to say, “Charlie, you know what, he’s ready.”
CD: (Laughs) Well, I think for them, you know, from where I was it was always just “You know, Charlie, just keep working hard. Your mentality’s great. Your attitude has been great.”
They were obviously thinking, you known, there were so many things that happened to me, to point out, that you can’t just say run around fast and you’re good.
It was always just keep working hard. I’ve been able to stay in contact with Pierre Berrieu the strength coach for us.
And the trainers Jim Hashimoto who helped me from the beginning as well as Ivan Pierra, the trainer for the US team.
I’ve been able to work through them and they’ve definitely helped me with what I need to do, what I need to be good at and they’ve been a tremendous help. what I need to do.
TSG: Do they–the training staff–stay in constant contact with you?
CD: I’ve stayed in constant contact with them. Pierre calls my club every week. I’ve spoken with Ivan every week. I speak with Hash (Jim Hashimoto) almost every other day or two, just making sure of if I’m doing everything right If I can do some more stuff.
The communication’s been great between all of us.
TSG: Okay, let’s give you a break on the recovery talk here. We interviewed Ale Bedoya the other day and had a little fun with some questions about some of your teammates. Here are yours. Just name the first player that comes to mind.
TSG: Who’s the best crosser of the ball?
CD: Oh wow, we have so many.
TSG: Take a shot. We all know you are well opinionated.
CD: I would say Stuart Holden.
TSG: Most underrated player?
CD: Whew…I would say Brad Guzan.
TSG: Best shooter?
CD: Clint Dempsey.
TSG: Most respected?
CD: Our captain Carlos Bocanegra.
(TSG Note: That answer came very quickly.)
TSG: Funniest? Almost done.
CD: This is a tough one. I would go with. Well, I would have to go with Stuart again.
CD: (Laughing) Well that would have to be the modern day man, Jonathan Spector.
TSG: Just a few more questions. Any fond memories of the US World Cup growing up? Remember any players.
CD: 1994 was my first World Cup so that was a huge thing. I went to Bolivia versus South Korea at Foxboro Stadium.
It was two teams I may not have been interested in , but that atmosphere was great.
The scored ended zero-zero so I didn’t get to see any goal celebrations. That was a big moment though because I was like, “I love this sport.”
As for players, it had to be in 1998, Ronaldo and in 2002 Ronaldo again.
(TSG’s choose Ronaldo as a hypothetical mentor for Davies in a column back in February.)
And 2002 was definitely great for me, because you could see the US made so much progress all the way through the quarterfinals and we barely lost to the World Cup finalists.
After that I was like I need to be a part of this. I need to play with the national team.
(Jozy’s rendition of Le Stanky Leg, September 2009, Rio Tinto)
TSG: Okay, we’ve gotten some rumblings on The Shin Guardian that the stanky leg is so 1999. Is that still going to be your signature move?
Are you going to with something new when you score? There are like 30,000 YouTube clips out there or something with kids doing the “Charlie Davies stanky leg celebration.” What do they need to get ready for?
CD: I don’t even know. First I have to get on the field then I have to score. Then we can talk goal celebrations.
The first goal celebration will be pretty intense as far as me just being crazy. I have no idea what I’ll do. I’ll just feel completely elated and overjoyed.
I don’t even know what will happen.
I’m just happy when I score goals in training; I don’t even know what to do.
I want to run around for like ten minutes right now if I score a goal in training.
CD: Be one of the top goal scorers and help us to a top 10, top 8 finish.
I want to be a good leader up top and accomplish good things with the team.
We’ve got a good team, capable of playing in Europe. It was unfortunate this season. I think we underachieved. But next year, we’re going to take a good stab at getting a place to compete in Europe.
TSG: Charlie, thanks for the time you’ve spent. From the entire TSG community, and from the fan in me, your efforts to make the World Cup represent all that is good about sport. The entire community wishes you the best over the coming weeks.
Anything that we should have asked you that we weren’t smart enough to?
CD: No I think you got everything.
Just keep believing.
Keep believing. There are things that come out that may not have truth and try to shake the confidence.
Keep believing….and it’s not over until the fat lady sings.
(Most photos for this story provided by Matt Mathai)