I'll admit, I don't usually plop myself on the couch on a Friday night to take in an MLS game. That's no knock on the MLS, which has proven with its expansion, shiny, new stadiums and attendance that it's still very much a growing, reputable league. It's just something I've never really done before.
But, my interest in tonight's D.C. United-Houston Dynamo game was piqued because of one player: Charlie Davies. You likely know Davies' story by now. The New Hampshire native almost lost his life in a car accident in October of 2009. He was a rising star for the USMNT (17 caps, 4 goals) as a speedy forward the team desperately needed to complement Jozy Altidore's brawn up front.
The crash, which sliced the car in half and killed another passenger, changed everything. He went through a grueling rehab program in 2010 and, despite shocking progress, could not earn a spot on the U.S. World Cup roster. Now armed with a massive, ear-to-ear scar across his skull, he's playing for United and started the season with five goals in five games.
I'm intrigued to see if Davies can do enough in the next month to earn a spot on Bob Bradley's Gold Cup roster this June. Right now, it would seem that Altidore and teen sensation Juan Agudelo are the only true locks to make the squad as forwards. Davies will be competing primarily with Teal Bunbury, Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez (who also had a red-hot April for Pachuca in Mexico's Primera Division) for one of the remaining spots. So, does he have a chance? Does he deserve a chance?
In the first half, Houston's offense looked superior while D.C. struggled to develop any dangerous opportunities for Davies and Josh Wolff within 30 yards of goal. Davies had a run into the box foiled by the keeper in the 10th minute and got off a nice cross in the 12th, but wasn't really effective otherwise. He left the field arguing with teammate Marc Burch, who scored United's first-half goal.
In the second half, it didn't take long for Davies to get his opportunity, but he couldn't convert. He found himself alone, seven yards from goal and on the end of a Dax McCarty cross, but his off-balance header sailed high. In the 64th minute, he misplayed a ball at the top of the box, though he was surrounded by Dynamo defenders at the time. The ball swung in from youngster Andy Najar, who actually looked like United's most creative player in the second half. The 18-year-old recently decided to represent Honduras instead of the U.S. on the international stage.
Davies' night was forgettable in a 4-1 loss, but that happens to everyone not named "Lionel" from time to time. He's not all the way back from where he was in 2009, but there's no reason to believe he can't get there soon. Whether an invite to the Gold Cup is on the horizon, though, depends on the month ahead.