FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Sixteen months ago, a near-fatal auto accident had left rising soccer star Charlie Davies fighting for his life.
He had two broken bones in his right leg, dislocated his left elbow, broke bones in his nose, forehead and eye socket. He ruptured his bladder. There was bleeding on the brain.
Soccer was just about the farthest thing from anyone's mind.
That's why there was so much to be thankful on a February morning in Florida, when Davies ran onto the field for a tryout with D.C. United. After having his life hung in the balance, he hopes to take advantage of the agreement made by his French club Sochaux to loan him to MLS for a year.
"I think the whole time I knew I would get back," Davies said this week, reflecting on the aftermath of the October 2009 accident. "You have to have that confidence that you're going to get back. Otherwise, I don't think you have a chance with the injuries that I had."
He sees daily reminders of his accident, with a lengthy scar on his head where the brain surgery was performed, and another foot-long scar on his stomach.
"There has always been bits and flashes in training where I'm like, 'Oh, that was me,'" he said. "That's what really helped me get back to being physically back to where I need to be."
Davies has 2½ years remaining on his contract with the Sochaux, which has stood by him through intense recovery that failed to get him back in time to play for the United States in last year's World Cup in South Africa. But nothing has been promised to him in Europe, and he certainly doesn't expect to have anything handed to him in Major League Soccer.
United coach Ben Olsen said Davies will be evaluated over the next two weeks before the team decides whether to keep him on for the season.
"We're all rooting for Charlie. He's come a long way from a horrific accident, and I think we're all hoping for the best," Olsen said. "But we've got to be realistic in our job and figure out if he's right for this club at this time."
Olsen should have a good idea of what Davies is capable of, at least when he's healthy. The two have played together before, and Davies has also played with current D.C. United players Dax McCarty and Santino Quaranta.
"I am very, very excited to be back with Charlie," said Quaranta, who played with him in the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup. "A lot has gone on, but as a team and as a group, we're very excited to have him here.
"We think he can help us, and just overall as a friend, I'm happy to have him in camp."
United plans to conduct scrimmages in Florida through Feb. 13. Two of them will take place on Monday, one in the morning against Canada's under-20 team and the second in the afternoon against Florida International.
The final scrimmage will be Feb. 12 against an under-20 team from Trinidad and Tobago.
Davies is looking forward to returning to a sense of normalcy. While he appeared during the second half of last year for Sochaux's reserves, he hasn't played a competitive first-team match since the Americans' World Cup qualifier at Honduras on Oct. 10, 2009. It's a feeling he knows he can only find on the field.
"Physically I feel great. I've come a long, long way and it finally feels good to feel physically right," he said. "At this stage I think I've done everything I needed to do to get back to where I needed to be to be successful. So now it's about playing matches, getting match fit and progressing with my confidence and I think I'm on the right path."