DAVIES PROVING DOUBTERS WRONG
After eight months on the sidelines and a rigorous rehabilitation program, Sochaux striker Charlie Davies probably thought the worst was behind him until a different distraction emerged with a week to play in the Ligue 1 season.
This issue has also surfaced for the American striker in the days before U.S. Men's National Team Coach Bob Bradley is scheduled to announce the 30-man preliminary roster for the World Cup.
Since Davies began full training with Sochaux last Monday, he has endured the brunt of a blog-fueled rumor mill in overdrive regarding his progress from injury.
Davies had barely stepped foot on the practice field before his fitness was being publicly questioned by the president of Sochaux, Alexandre Lacombe.
In an article in L'Est Republicain, Lacombe offered a personal opinion that some interpreted as an official comment, telling the local paper that he did not expect Davies to feature for Sochaux before the end of the season, a statement which came as a surprise to Davies.
"It was definitely a shocker, it came out the first day I started training," Davies told YA regarding Lacombe's comments.
"[To hear] that from someone who should be supporting you, for them not to mention anything to you, it was definitely painful to hear and that alone made me stronger."
To make matters worse, an article from Agence France-Presse was picked up earlier this week by FIFA.com, French sports daily L'Equipe, and other outlets, which claimed that the Sochaux trainers had essentially ruled Davies out for the season and the World Cup, much to the dismay of an incredulous Davies.
"My reaction this time was to laugh," said Davies. "I know the progress that I've made. If they only knew that I ran a couple of fitness tests in the past few days and passed them."
Sochaux have since denied that its medical staff were responsible for any leak to the press.
Throughout his recovery, Davies says he has relied on the support of his teammates as well as coach Francis Gillot.
"From the beginning he's called me every week," Davies said of Gillot. "Every week he's saying how much progress I've made. It's great having a coach on your side, who supports you, and who makes it easier for you to get back into things."
While Davies hasn't spoken U.S. Men's National Team coach Bob Bradley in some time, head athletic trainer Ivan Pierra visited Davies last week to monitor the player's progress.
"I'm in training, taking tackles, scoring goals, taking shots, and making moves," he continued. "I need to work on my reaction time, when I have the ball it's not really a problem, off the ball is where [I need to improve]."
Despite the progress he has made, Davies knows there is only one way to gauge how far he has come.
"I really can't know where I am until I get a match to see what I can improve on," noted Davies. "All these fitness tests don't mean anything until I get into a match."
The former Hammarby man hopes to make his return for Sochaux on May 15th for their last game of the season at home to Auxerre.
"It definitely would be something special to get in that last match," he added.
The more immediate challenge, though, will be convincing Bradley that his progress merits a place at the pre-World Cup training camp at Princeton University on May 15th, where Bradley is expected to announce his final roster of 23 players who will travel to South Africa.
It's a benchmark that Davies has set for his recovery all along.
"It would be huge," said Davies of making the squad. "Since day one I've worked to be on that roster, I really hope I get the chance to go and make the most of it."
"I haven't really thought about not making it. I'm going to do whatever it takes to make it happen."
When pressed on how it would feel to miss the World Cup, Davies keeps his career in perspective.
"If it's not meant to be then it's not meant to be," said the New Hampshire native. "I'm only 23, I'll just make sure I'm ready for the next one."
The former Boston College standout has always had a propensity to score goals but perhaps the goal that he may remember most is the first one he tallied in training.
"It was amazing," said a grinning Davies. "I wanted to run around the field for twenty minutes and celebrate. It felt like a 1,000 pound weight was taken off my chest."