Davies pulls double duty for U.S. national team
WASHINGTON -- Two games on different continents in less than a week? That was hardly an ordeal for U.S. national team forward Charlie Davies.
After all, this is an athlete whose soccer-loving father was more than a bit disappointed when his son failed in the first attempt to make a team in a local kids' league in New Hampshire.
"Three hours a day of training as a 6-year-old," Davies said. "That's when I developed my passion for soccer."
Davies' father, a native of Gambia, must have known what he was doing. Davies became a prep star in Massachusetts, avoiding burnout along the way by joining the football and wrestling teams.
He went on to Boston College and became a finalist for the Hermann Award, given to college's top soccer player. Then he turned pro, headed to Sweden and is very much in the U.S. picture for next year's World Cup -- even if means pulling double duty by playing in both the Confederations Cup in South Africa and the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States.
"I think if you look at what's happened with Charlie, this summer the combination of both tournaments works well in terms of trying to move him forward," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said Tuesday after the final practice session before Wednesday's Gold Cup match against Honduras at RFK Stadium. "He finished up the Confederations Cup in good form, and his club has felt that this time is good for him, and so we've been able to find a good balance there."
Davies started the Confederations Cup final against Brazil in Johannesburg on June 28, then scored a goal in the opener of the Gold Cup on Saturday against Grenada in Seattle. Bradley is going with younger players in the Gold Cup to give his regulars a break, but Davies fits in both categories, having just turned 23.
"After a 35-hour trip, it's difficult on the mind and body," Davies said. "The first game was good to get it out of the system, and now I'm ready to go."
The U.S. team handled Grenada easily, winning 4-0, but Honduras will be a tougher test. Honduras is the last CONCACAF opponent to defeat the Americans on U.S. soil, winning 3-2 at RFK in a World Cup qualifier in 2001. The U.S. home unbeaten streak against CONCACAF teams has since reached 54 -- 44 wins and 10 ties.
"This is going to be a much better game," Bradley said. "We expect that this is going to be the game for putting ourselves in a position to win the group."
Bradley won't announce his lineup until game time, so Davies might be able to give his legs a rest on Wednesday. That said, any chance to play is a chance to make another impression for next year's World Cup. Regardless, Davies really wants to be on the field Saturday, when the U.S. team returns to his native New England to play Haiti at Foxborough, Mass.
Davies is also playing for a possible better job overseas. His decision to leave Boston College early and try his hand in Europe appeared to backfire initially. He struggled during his first season with Hammarby IF and received an ultimatum from his coach, who challenged Davies by saying "Do you want to go back?" or stay in Sweden and become a better player.
"I needed to get pushed," Davies said. "I stayed, and it was the best decision of my life."
Davies had a breakthrough year with 14 goals for Hammarby in 2008, enhancing his reputation all around. He has four goals in nine appearances this season, though hasn't appeared for Hamarby since May. A shot with a more prominent club in a league with higher prestige could be next.
"A lot of clubs have taken serious steps," he said. "Right now it's a waiting game. For me, it's really exciting to have a lot of clubs talking about me."
Davies isn't the same player in Sweden as he is with the national team. With Hammarby, he's expected to use his speed to score and counterattack often, while Bradley likes his forwards to play more physically and pay more attention to defense.
"In Sweden, the team really depends on me. It's 'Where to find Charlie?" Davies said. "On the national team, you have to be a more well-rounded player and play for the cause."