All things considered, it would be hard to look at Charlie Davies' 2011 campaign as anything other than a success.
In his first season back from an October 2009 car accident that killed another passenger and left his body in shambles, Davies appeared in 26 of D.C. United's 34 league matches. His 11 goals tied him for ninth in the league in scoring. Doubts over whether he could still play the game at a professional level were silenced.
But he notched just three goals after June - all in a 3-0 win over Chivas USA on Sept. 10. For all the progress Davies has made, the consistency is still lacking. With his loan deal from French club Sochaux set to expire, Davies' future in the nation's capital is murky at best.
"Before the season, if you said I'd score 11 goals in 26 games, I'd say, 'Wow, that would be unbelievable,' " Davies said. "But for me, I feel like I could have done so much better."
It's been a particularly eventful past month for Davies, on and off the field. Last week, he filed a $20 million lawsuit against a District nightclub and drink company Red Bull, claiming they were responsible for the accident that nearly ended his career. The lawsuit says the driver, who in March pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and maiming while driving intoxicated, was served too many drinks at a private event hosted by Red Bull (a company which happens to own the New York Red Bulls of MLS).
While United fought for a playoff berth down the stretch, coach Ben Olsen limited the striker to just one start and 76 total minutes in crucial contests against Vancouver, Chicago and Portland. After the team was eliminated from postseason contention, Olsen left Davies on the bench as an unused substitute for Saturday's season finale, a loss to Sporting Kansas City.
Needless to say, the final weeks, during which United went 0-5-1 to finish the year 9-13-12, put a notable damper on Davies' storybook comeback.
"I thought I did everything that was asked of me," Davies said. "Of course, a striker is not going to score every game - that's unheard of. You can go to Wayne Rooney and [Didier] Drogba and all these big-time strikers, Fernando Torres, and they go on goal-scoring droughts, but the coach still sticks with them and gives them confidence. And I feel like that's something I didn't get. But I've got to take the blame for myself."
Said Olsen: "I look at it as a huge step for him. He's probably not very happy with the playing time he's had. But he has scored 11 goals. So I look at it as a wonderful comeback."
Toward season's end, Olsen often chose to deploy MLS leading scorer Dwayne De Rosario up top with veteran Josh Wolff rather than use De Rosario out of midfield - leaving Davies as the odd man out. But even when Canada national team duty forced De Rosario to miss United's 2-1 loss at Vancouver on Oct. 12, rookie Blake Brettschneider (one career goal) got the starting nod over Davies.
With United in a must-win match against Portland a week later, Olsen gave Davies the start, only to replace him with Brettschneider six minutes into the second half.
As it turns out, that could be the last time the D.C. faithful got to see Davies donning the black and red.
"That's a coach's decision," Olsen said, noting Davies was fit and healthy. "That's just how I felt we were going to win games. It's pretty remarkable that he's come back from that and contributed to his team. Any way you cut it, whether it's the beginning, middle or end, if you take it as a combined season, he's a big part of some of the success that we've had this year."
United hold the option to buy Davies' contract outright from Sochaux, though it seems unlikely D.C. will pay the prearranged price for a player not at the level that made him a U.S. national team starter before the accident.
If United choose not to exercise the option or renegotiate to buy Davies at a cheaper price, then the 25-year-old will return to Sochaux. The organization, which Davies earlier this year said delayed his return to first-team action so it could collect additional insurance money for his injuries, would presumably then look to loan or sell the forward during the January transfer window - possibly to a different MLS side.
"As of now, I really don't know what the future holds for me, but I'm excited," Davies said. "When I think about it, man, I'm going to be a thousand times better next year, just from all this experience I've gained."
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