Photo by Tony Quinn/ISIphotos.com
By AVI CREDITOR
The bone-chilling details of Charlie Davies' story have been rehashed, dissected and analyzed on television and radio shows, in newspapers and all over the Internet.
Fans fumed when he was left off the United States national team roster for the World Cup, even though it became evident that he wasn't close to the fitness or form necessary to compete on the highest level of international play.
He bided his time with the FC Sochaux reserves while all the tangible evidence the American public had of his recovery were his own post-game tweets and a report of an unfortunate run-in with the French police.
At some point on Saturday night, we will have new material to work. After 17 difficult months, Davies is finally ready to have the focus turned to his on-field actions in games that matter.
Saturday's D.C. United-Columbus Crew match should mark Davies' first regular-season, first-team, competitive action since the car accident that changed his life forever in October of 2009. The driver in that accident was sentenced to two years in prison on Friday, and the symbolism of the timing is beyond striking.
As we all know, Davies was supposed to be in uniform for the U.S. national team at RFK Stadium the night after the accident in a World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica. That opportunity was nullified after Davies' decision to break curfew, a decision for which he has since apologized and vocalized regret repeatedly.
As Davies sets out to start the next chapter of his life and professional soccer career, he can pick up from where the height of his playing days were left behind — Washington, D.C. The page can be turned, though not forgotten, from the chapter that has come to define him.
Before we skip to the climax of Davies' comeback story arc, though, let's allow the natural progression to take its course.
His play in the preseason has earned mixed, yet potential-filled, reviews from pundits, teammates and coaches alike. His goal in the Carolina Challenge Cup was well taken, and there have been glimpses of the "old Charlie" mixed in with moments that remind us what he has had to overcome to regain the physical strength, let alone in-game aptitude, required for a top-of-the-line pro.
Davies has always been the first to raise the bar for himself. He's a furious competitor, he wants to succeed at the highest level and he's driven by the quest to reach the top of the striker options in Bob Bradley's player pool.
As the track record of his work ethic and fierce drive shows, he's likely to get there eventually.
For the time being, how do we measure success for Davies? Is it his goal total? The number of minutes he plays? The first time he displays that speed-finishing combination that made U.S. national team fans dream big?
However success is measured for Davies, what he does in his first match won't determine the value of his comeback. It will simply be the first step in a new journey. The journey to get back to the Charlie of old.