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D.C. United finalizes loan to obtain Davies from Sochaux.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Wednesday, February 16, 2011) -- Charlie Davies, once on his way to becoming the principal striker for the United States men, joined D.C. United today on loan from FC Sochaux of France's top league.

The loan will extend the length of the Major League Soccer season and United holds an option to fully acquire Davies on December 1, according to United president Kevin Payne. This season, his salary will be jointly paid by United and Sochaux. While no figures have been made public, United's share will be less than the threshold amount that would make Davies a "designated player" under MLS rules -- $335,000 a year. Davies was making a reported $700,000 annually at Sochaux.

If United exercises its option on Davies according to Payne and general manager Dave Kasper, the transfer fee to be paid to Sochaux has been negotiated, and Davies' salary for next season has been set. In 2012 he would become a designated player.

"I'm very thankful and grateful to D.C. United for giving me this chance to come here and prove myself again to the American public and to the world," Davies told a news conference. "I've come a long way and, of course, with a lot to overcome, but I think I'm just where I need to be to be successful. I still need to work a bit to get my confidence back, which is a huge thing for a forward and I don't think I could have made a better move than coming here to United."

Davies story is now well-known to American fans and the soccer world. On Oct. 13, 2009, the U.S. men were in Washington to play a World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica two days hence at RFK Stadium. The previous Saturday night in Honduras, the Americans had wrapped up their bid to the World Cup in South Africa, so it was likely that Davies and most of the other starters would see little, if any action.

Davies broke curfew and after 3 a.m. was being driven back to the team's hotel in the D.C. suburbs in Virginia when the driver of the SUV, Maria Espinoza, lost control of the car and careened into a wall on the George Washington Parkway. The impact killed the front-seat passenger Ashley Roberta and seriously injured Davies in the back seat.

Davies was rushed to a trauma center, suffering from a broken and dislocated left elbow, a right leg broken in three places, a broken nose, forehead and eye socket; a ruptured bladder, and he was bleeding into the brain.

Espinoza has pleaded guilty to felony charges of involuntary manslaughter and maiming while driving intoxicated, and will be sentenced this month.

In the aftermath of the accident, it was questionable whether Davies would ever walk again, let alone play soccer, let alone play it at the high level he was enjoying in 2009. Some of his highlights from that year included a goal against Egypt at the 2009 Confederations Cup, a glorious assist on Landon Donovan's tally against Brazil in the final and a rare goal for the U.S. against Mexico in Azteca Stadium. The previous season, he had 15 goals for Hammarby, his Swedish club, which led to his transfer to Sochaux

At Sochaux, he scored twice as a substitute against defending French champion Bordeaux in August in his debut appearence. He then appeared eight times before being called into the U.S. World Cup camp in October and then his accident.

Davies began his long comeback at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington. He then transferred to Wilmington, Del., under the care of U.S. Soccer Federation's head rehabilitation trainer, James Hashimoto. He made amazing progress and, this past summer, he returned to France to try to regain his place with Sochaux.

He was not really ready, so Sochaux, a team with a deep front line, dropped him to its reserve team and now has loaned him out.

Davies is out to prove he can again play at the highest level. "It's not just to get back to where I was, but the goal always is to get better and to be able to achieve all the goals I had before (the accident) I had as a player," he said. "Every day, when I wake up, the scars on my body remind me of the accident, but my work ethic and my frame of mind have really helped me overcome all the obstacles I have had to go through.

"Playing in D.C. is going to be special for me, not just because the accident happened here, but (it is) the place where I'll show I've come back and can play at the highest level."

Davies talked his way around the question of whether he hopes his stay in D.C. and MLS will be only for a year, and whether a showing he had regained his form might be a ticket back to Europe. "I just want to help this team win," he said. "I want to do everything I can, not just to get back to my previous form, but be even better and to help this team win and meet its objectives which are to win MLS Cup and the (Lamar Hunt U.S.) Open Cup."

Payne expects Davies to be a key player for United. "One thing we set out to do in this offseason was to find players of character, to create a different mentality and culture in our locker room then we've had in recent years," he said. "I think having players who have had to overcome things in order to get onto the field is a good thing. We have several players now who fit that bill including Charlie."


Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correpondent.

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