Chances: An Ode to Charlie Davies

How does one define potential? What rationale exists in defining ourselves by what we strive to be, rather than what we already are?

Look no further than Charlie Davies. No word forever describes him better. The man had it all. At the age of 21, the former Boston College standout turned pro after winning numerous accolades during his junior season. A crown jewel of the U.S. Youth Soccer program, the D.C. United striker soared to new heights on the national team, playing a reserve role alongside the likes of childhood heroes Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey.

Davies needs no reminder of his meteoric rise. Blink and one feared missing it. The former New Hampshire native, once a bottom feeder grateful to ride the bench on a mediocre American squad, earned his big break on the world stage. Davies earned his first start for the national team, scoring the opening goal to boot Egypt out of the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa. The goal not only propelled team USA to the semifinals, but it marked Cinderella’s arrival to soccer’s modest dance.

The fairy tale culminated in perhaps Davies’ finest performance. Facing the greatest Spanish squad ever assembled, one that had not lost since November of 2006, the Americans entered the semifinals as heavy underdogs. Seizing the momentum from last game’s heroics, Davies never looked back. In arguably the greatest upset in American international play, Team USA ended Spain’s 35-match unbeaten streak in a 2-0 thriller.

In merely a week, the name Charlie Davies seized the soccer world hostage and snuck into the households of Americans. Pundits saw potential bursting at the seams. As the media talked louder, Davies’ ceiling grew higher. The constant prospects of advertisements and transfers to Europe took on a life of its own. Who cared about a guaranteed roster spot in the 2010 FIFA World Cup? America demanded a star in the making. Sure, the glass slipper fit, but maybe just a bit too well.

Merely months later, the clock finally struck midnight. That beautiful flash of potential seen in South Africa went missing, extinguished in the back of an SUV off the George Washington Parkway. On October 13th, 2009, the Charlie Davies America fell in love with vanished. In the early morning of that fateful day, the car Davies rode passenger in crashed into a guardrail on the highway. Fortunately for Davies, he survived the crash that claimed the life of another passenger. He fractured several bones in his leg, elbow and face. His career, and life, all laid in jeopardy.

Despite a valiant effort to return for the World Cup, Davies failed to pass the proper physicals. From then on, his career gradually sailed off course. His stints in the Swedish, French and Danish leagues would eventually prove futile. Eventually, a shell of his old self stumbled back into the MLS, this time with the New England Revolution.

“The beauty of potential?” one may ask. It never actually dies. Like beauty, it lies in the eye of the beholder. While others see trash, one sees treasure.

Boston College men’s soccer coach, Ed Kelly, still sees an all-too-familiar treasure— the Charlie Davies who not only dominated Chestnut Hill, but opposing defenses, for an entire three-year reign. In fact, Kelly made news recently for hiring his former player. Davies serves on the Eagles’ coaching staff, working as many practices and games possible before his MLS season ends in October.

Now, here Davies stands again, this time on healed wounds that ooze with a different air of potential. The now 28-year-old man offers a new hope, this time as coach. According to the Boston Globe, Davies starts his days reciting the Our Father and saying grace in honor of a new day. Davies refuses to squander another opportunity, setting his sights higher and higher. Why stop at Boston College? He plans to pursue his United States Soccer Federation National B license this winter. He sees a gift in front of him, a new chance, a new hope.

Photo courtesy of flickr / Paul Mercado.

Photo courtesy of flickr / Paul Mercado.

Thanks to Ed Kelly, Davies once again has a chance to redefine his career. This life-changing opportunity allows the weathered striker to forget the “what ifs?” that have followed his shadow since that fateful morning in 2009.

Welcome back this former Eagle. Even on broken wings, he stands ready, determined for one final flight.

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