- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 16, 2011

WASHINGTON | Charlie Davies didn’t need to return to the scene of the accident when he signed with D.C. United. He had already been there.

About two months after the October 2009 car crash that killed one person and nearly took his own life, Davies took up an offer from U.S. national team player Oguchi Onyewu to ride to Washington, D.C., to visit Onyewu’s father.

Onyewu asked if Davies wanted to go down the George Washington Parkway, just across the Potomac River in Virginia.

Davies said yes. He needed the closure.

“As weird as it sounds,” Davies said, “it was interesting for me to see all of it again from a different perspective, and just to be so thankful for my life. I felt relieved after driving by the site of the accident.”

The two also went to the hospital where Davies was taken after the accident. It happened to be the same hospital where Onyewu’s father was recovering from back surgery.

Sixteen months later, Davies was back in the nation’s capital, awarded the coveted No. 9 jersey at a news conference Wednesday after United completed a deal to take the 24-year-old striker on loan from French club Sochaux. Davies will play with United during the upcoming MLS season, and the club will have an option to keep him as a permanent transfer at the end of the year.

The comeback from all the injuries — the ruptured bladder, the bleeding on the brain, the broken and dislocated left elbow, the broken bones in his right leg, the broken nose, forehead and eye socket — is nearly complete, and it tried nearly every bit of his patience.

“I needed a new atmosphere, a new environment,” Davies said. “And I found it and I’m extremely excited and happy. Ever since the beginning when I got out of the hospital bed, to the wheelchair, to the crutches, to walking, then to jogging on a treadmill, on each phase I wanted to do more. I always pushed myself to the limit, I think that’s one of the main things that pushed me through.”

When he returned to his French club, Davies didn’t come close to recovering his form that previously had him on track to play for the U.S. in the World Cup in South Africa last summer. His only playing time came in exhibitions and with the reserve team, which means he hasn’t appeared in a full competitive match since a World Cup qualifier at Honduras on Oct. 10, 2009, three days before the accident.

“I think I came back too early as far as training in France, and I think I developed a lot of bad habits that for the past three or fourth months I’ve been breaking,” Davies said. “It’s just been very difficult. When you lose a ball, and you lose another ball, and you start hearing guys on your team starting going ‘argggh’ — and then after that you’re isolated from the game because no one wants to play you the ball.

“The downs definitely outweighed the ups. Just the little battles that I had. In training I’d do one move right and it’d feel like the old me, and that’s what kept me going. These little one-minute moments, 10-second moments during the day that would keep me going, and I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.”

United agreed to give Davies a shot, but they wanted to try him out at training camp before signing a deal. Last week, at United’s camp in Florida, he scored a goal in a scrimmage against the Canadian under-20 team and had two goals and an assist in the second half of an exhibition against the Trinidad and Tobago under-20 squad.

“He proved to us that he’s on his way back to being the Charlie of old,” said coach Ben Olsen, a former teammate of Davies‘ on the U.S. national team. “Is he there yet? There’s still some rust of being off that long and going through all the things that he went through. Our job is dusting that rust off and getting him back to that form we saw several years ago.”

Davies said he’s fully recovered from the specific injuries suffered in the accident, but that his timing and confidence aren’t 100 percent. He said his goal is to be better than he was before and to “prove myself again to the American public to the world that I’m back.”

Davies has four goals in 17 international appearances for the U.S. team. United hope he’ll add some scoring punch to a team looking to rebuild after the worst season in franchise history, having won just six of 30 games while scoring only 21 goals in 2010.

Davies said it was no big deal that his new soccer home will be so close to the site of his accident. He said he already has daily reminders when he wakes up and sees the scars all over his body.

He said he hasn’t kept close tabs on the legal proceedings or been in touch with the other families involved. He was a passenger in the late-night, one-car crash. Another passenger died, and the driver is scheduled to be sentenced next month after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and drunken driving.

Davies was breaking curfew at the time of the accident. He was in Washington with the U.S. team as it prepared for a World Cup qualifier at RFK Stadium.

He said United won’t have to worry about him breaking a curfew again.

“That’s for sure. If you go through what I did, you learn a lot about yourself,” Davies said, “what you need to do to be a professional and have a long career.”


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