On Dec. 19, 2010, Charlie Davies made his triumphant return to Sochaux's first team, a mere 14 months after the well-documented car accident that nearly took his life and claimed the life of another passenger. On the surface, it appeared to be a dream development, but in reality, the personnel decision was a symbolic gesture made by Sochaux's technical staff to award his progress. Davies knew he wasn't going to get on the field against Bordeaux that day, and so did his coaches.
He didn't sniff the club's first team roster again. Until this past Saturday.
Wearing Sochaux's No. 12 shirt, Davies made his entry against Stade Rennes on Saturday as a 78th-minute substitute to complete his European comeback and make his first appearance with the French club since Oct. 3, 2009. Returning to the mix at Sochaux was a bit of a surprise development, but one that indicates that he is even further along in his progression than some may have anticipated.
After an uneven season on loan with MLS' D.C. United, one that started with a two-goal dream debut and one that ended with him out of favor despite netting 11 goals in all, Davies returned to Sochaux to train with the club and play for its reserve side while assessing his options. Under contract until the end of the 2012-13 season, it would appear that his best option at the moment is to stay right where he is.
For the 25-year-old Davies, the opportunity has presented itself to make his mark with the club, which is desperately trying to fight off relegation. Sochaux has gone 2-10-4 in all competitions since Oct. 1 and sits dead last in the Ligue 1 table, with just 19 points from 22 matches. More applicable to Davies, the club's 22 goals are tied for second-worst in the league. On the plus side, freedom from worry is just three points away, as the bottom-heavy table has eight teams separated by four points.
It's not all roses for Davies. Guinea's Abdoul Camara and Mali's Modibo Maiga have returned from the African Cup of Nations and will provide more competition for minutes. The club's attacking struggles have certainly opened the door for alternative options, though, and that's where Davies can slot in, using his still-returning pace to stretch defenses, take on defenders and add a different element to Sochaux's approach.
What Davies' situation has taught us -- and U.S. center back Oguchi Onyewu before him to another extent -- is that no matter how advanced the medical field has gotten, it takes a while for even the fittest of athletes to recover to their full extent from serious injuries. Patience must be exercised and expectations must be tempered, but writing someone like Davies off too soon is far from the right tactic, too. For Onyewu, it took about two years following a torn patellar tendon before he returned to his peak level. That, coupled with a great club situation in Portugal, has him well on his way to becoming the Onyewu of old.
Even though Davies showed flashes of his old self with D.C. last year, he is still not even 2½ years removed from an accident that left him with injuries that could have ended his playing career altogether. The more time on the field he gets to rediscover himself, the better, but it is a process and not a short one at that. This weekend's development was the next step in that process.
The constant begging among some fans for his re-inclusion on the national team -- and Davies' own assertion that he would have been considered for the 2011 Gold Cup roster if not for a poorly timed hamstring injury -- was a testament to the glimpses of effectiveness he showed in D.C. along with his reputation and potential, but the reality of the situation was that he just was not ready. Those who were quick to cast Davies, an everlasting fighter, aside after his MLS loan spell are not in the right either, though.
More appearances for Sochaux and continuing to compete in Europe while regaining his maximum level of play over time will ultimately be the determining factors in his international future. Davies knows a thing or two about patience, climbing the figurative mountain and achieving landmark moments. Saturday's was just the latest in his comeback story that is far from reaching its final chapter.
While Davies' return was the most notable item to emanate from this weekend's games, there were productive moments on the field elsewhere, too. Jozy Altidore scored twice in a midweek league match, Clint Dempsey had a blast from distance hit the crossbar and goalkeeper for a stylish own goal and Landon Donovan, Maurice Edu, Carlos Bocanegra and DaMarcus Beasley each had a hand in setting up goals for their respective teams over the weekend. Here's how they and the rest of the Americans playing abroad fared over this past week (season statistics encompass all competitions):
Clint Dempsey, M, Fulham -- Started, played 90 minutes and had a shot from distance result in an own goal in Fulham's 2-1 victory over Stoke City on Saturday. Dempsey's swerving blast from 30 yards hit off the crossbar and then off the back of Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen to give the Cottagers a 2-0 lead at the time. SEASON: 34 games, 34 starts, 16 goals
Landon Donovan, M/F, Everton -- Started, played 90 minutes and assisted on the second goal in Everton's 2-0 victory over Chelsea on Saturday. Donovan cut inside on a run from the right and slid a deft pass down the middle for Denis Stracqualursi, who finished in the 71st minute for an insurance goal. Donovan now has had a hand in seven goals (and officially has six assists) during his loan spell. Remarkably, he had only three assists all of last season with the Los Angeles Galaxy. SEASON: 9 games, 9 starts
Brad Friedel, GK, Tottenham -- Started, played 90 minutes, made five saves and earned the clean sheet in Tottenham's 5-0 victory over Newcastle United on Saturday. SEASON: 24 games, 24 starts, 92 saves, 24 goals allowed, 10 clean sheets
Brad Guzan, GK, Aston Villa -- In the 18, did not play in Villa's 1-0 loss to Manchester City on Sunday. SEASON: 9 games, 8 starts, 30 saves, 8 goals allowed, 2 clean sheets
Marcus Hahnemann, GK, Everton -- Not in the 18 for Everton's 2-0 victory over Chelsea on Saturday. SEASON: 0 games
Tim Howard, GK, Everton -- Started, played 90 minutes, made four saves and earned the clean sheet in Everton's 2-0 victory over Chelsea on Saturday. SEASON: 27 games, 27 starts, 64 saves, 27 goals allowed, 7 clean sheets
Eric Lichaj, D, Aston Villa -- Not in the 18 for Villa's 1-0 loss to Manchester City on Sunday. Lichaj got a run out at left back during a midweek reserve match, and with injuries to Richard Dunne and Ciaran Clark stretching Villa's defensive options, he could be in position to secure playing time with the first team. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start, 1 goal
Tim Ream, D, Bolton -- Not in the 18 for Bolton's 2-1 loss to Wigan Athletic on Saturday. SEASON: 0 games Zak Whitbread, D, Norwich City -- Not in the 18 for Norwich City's 3-2 victory over Swansea City on Saturday. Whitbread hurt his hamstring in the Canaries' previous game and was a game-time decision this past weekend, according to the club's website. SEASON: 15 games, 15 starts
Conor Doyle, F, Derby County -- In the 18, came on as a 90th-minute substitute in Derby County's 0-0 draw with Millwall on Saturday. SEASON: 6 games, 1 start
Robbie Findley, F, Nottingham Forest -- In the 18, came on as a 75th-minute substitute in Nottingham Forest's 1-1 draw with Watford on Saturday. SEASON: 23 games, 13 starts, 5 goals
George John, D, West Ham -- West Ham's match against Peterborough United scheduled for Saturday was postponed because of a frozen field. West Ham only has four more matches remaining before John's loan expires on March 5, at which point the club will have to decide whether to purchase his contract outright from FC Dallas and MLS. SEASON: 0 games
Daniel Potts, D, West Ham -- West Ham's match against Peterborough United scheduled for Saturday was postponed because of a frozen field. Potts, a 17-year-old left back with dual U.S. and England eligibility, was called up by the England Under-18 national team for next month's friendly against Poland, marking the first time that he will represent England on the youth level. He previously participated in a U.S. U-20 camp last year and would maintain U.S. eligibility even if he plays for England's U-18s. SEASON: 4 games, 4 starts
Robbie Rogers, M, Leeds United -- Not in the 18 for Leeds' 2-1 loss to Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday. SEASON: 0 games
Jonathan Spector, M/D, Birmingham City -- Started, played 90 minutes in Birmingham's 1-0 victory over Portsmouth on Tuesday. Birmingham's match against Barnsley scheduled for Saturday was postponed because of a frozen field. SEASON: 37 games, 37 starts
Mike Grella, F, Brentford -- Brentford's match against Oldham Athletic scheduled for Saturday was postponed because of a frozen field. SEASON: 16 games, 3 starts, 4 goals
Frank Simek, D, Carlisle United -- Carlisle's match against Stevenage scheduled for Saturday was postponed because of a frozen field. SEASON: 7 games, 7 starts
Anton Peterlin, M, Walsall -- Walsall's match against Colchester United scheduled for Saturday was postponed because of a frozen field. SEASON: 26 games, 20 starts
Jon-Paul Pittman, F, Oxford United -- Oxford's match against Accrington Stanley scheduled for Saturday was postponed because of a frozen field. SEASON: 17 games, 5 starts, 4 goals (4 games, 1 goal with Crawley Town)
Timmy Chandler, D, FC Nurnberg -- Started, played 90 minutes in Nurnberg's 0-0 draw with FC Augsburg on Sunday. SEASON: 21 games, 21 starts, 1 goal
Steve Cherundolo, D, Hannover 96 -- Started, played 90 minutes in Hannover's 1-1 draw with Mainz 05 on Saturday. SEASON: 19 games, 18 starts
Joe Gyau, M, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim -- In the 18, came on as an 80th-minute substitute in Hoffenheim's 1-0 loss to SpVgg Greuther Furth in the quarterfinals of the DFB Pokal (German Cup) on Wednesday. The appearance marked Gyau's professional debut, and despite entering while his team was down a man and not having a ton of time to leave his mark, Gyau showed bursts of his trademark speed and drew a foul that led to a late free kick in the attacking half of the field. Gyau was in the 18 but did not play in Hoffenheim's 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen in league play on Saturday. SEASON: 1 game
Fabian Johnson, D/M, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim -- Started, played 80 minutes in Hoffenheim's 1-0 loss to SpVgg Greuther Furth in the quarterfinals of the DFB Pokal on Wednesday. Johnson also started and played 90 minutes in Hoffenheim's 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen in league play on Saturday. SEASON: 20 games, 16 starts, 2 goals
Jermaine Jones, M, FC Schalke 04 -- Not in the 18 for Schalke's 3-0 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday. SEASON: 16 games, 12 starts
Alfredo Morales, D, Hertha Berlin -- Started, played 120 minutes in Berlin's 2-0, extra-time loss to Borussia Monchengladbach in the quarterfinals of the DFB Pokal on Wednesday. Morales also started, played 45 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Berlin's 5-0 loss to VfB Stuttgart in league play on Saturday. SEASON: 6 games, 3 starts
Daniel Williams, D/M, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim -- Started, played 90 minutes in Hoffenheim's 1-0 loss to SpVgg Gruether Furth in the quarterfinals of the DFB Pokal on Wednesday. Williams also started and played 90 minutes in Hoffenheim's 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen in league play on Saturday. SEASON: 18 games, 12 starts (1 game, 1 start with SC Freiburg)
David Yelldell, GK, Bayer Leverkusen -- Not in the 18 for Leverkusen's 1-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start, 1 save, 4 goals allowed
Ricardo Clark, M, Eintracht Frankfurt -- Not in the 18 for Frankfurt's 1-1 draw with Fortuna Dusseldorf on Monday. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start
Luis Robles, GK, Karlsruhe -- Not in the 18 for Karlsruhe's 0-0 draw with Eintracht Braunschweig on Saturday. SEASON: 5 games, 5 starts, 14 saves, 13 goals allowed
Matt Taylor, F, SC Paderborn 07 -- In the 18, did not play in Paderborn's 5-1 loss to SpVgg Greuther Furth on Sunday. SEASON: 15 games, 5 starts, 4 goals
Michael Bradley, M, Chievo Verona -- Started, played 75 minutes in Chievo's 2-0 loss to Napoli on Monday. SEASON: 23 games, 21 starts
Charlie Davies, F, FC Sochaux -- In the 18, came on as a 78th-minute substitute in Sochaux's 1-0 loss Stade Rennes on Saturday. SEASON: 1 game
Quentin Westberg, GK, Evian Thonon Gaillard -- In the 18, did not play in Evian's 3-2 loss to Stade Rennes in the Round of 16 of the Coupe de France (French Cup) on Tuesday. Evian's match against Marseille scheduled for Saturday was postponed because of a frozen field. SEASON: 3 game, 3 starts, 8 saves, 3 goals allowed, 1 clean sheet
Jozy Altidore, F, AZ Alkmaar -- In the 18, came on as a 76th-minute substitute and scored two goals in AZ's 6-0 victory over ADO Den Haag on Wednesday. Altidore was the beneficiary of a turnover deep in ADO Den Haag's half, finishing off a cross from Brett Holman to score in the 85th minute before pouncing on a rebound of Adam Maher's saved shot, collecting and finishing for his second in the 88th minute. Altidore was in the 18 and came on as a 75th-minute substitute in AZ's 2-0 victory over Excelsior in league play on Saturday. SEASON: 32 games, 22 starts, 11 goals
Oguchi Onyewu, D, Sporting Lisbon -- Not in the 18 for Sporting's 3-1 victory (5-3 on aggregate) over Nacional in the semifinals of the Taca de Portugal (Portuguese Cup) on Wednesday. Sporting will meet Academica in May's final. Onyewu started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Sporting's 2-0 loss to Maritimo in league play on Saturday. SEASON: 25 games, 25 starts
Mikkel Diskerud, M, KAA Gent -- In the 18, did not play in Gent's 3-1 loss to Club Brugge on Sunday. SEASON: 0 games
Sacha Kljestan, M, RSC Anderlecht -- Started, played 90 minutes in Anderlecht's 2-1 victory over Standard Liege on Sunday. SEASON: 32 games, 32 starts, 4 goals
Alejandro Bedoya, M, Rangers FC -- Not in the 18 for Rangers' 4-1 victory over Dunfermline Athletic on Saturday. SEASON: 25 games, 19 starts, 4 goals (16 games, 15 starts, 4 goals with Orebro SK)
Carlos Bocanegra, D, Rangers FC -- Started, played 90 minutes and assisted on a goal in Rangers' 4-1 victory over Dunfermline Athletic on Saturday. Bocanegra squared a header off a free kick to the path of Lee McCulloch, who buried his shot from inside the area to give Rangers a 2-1 lead in the 39th minute. SEASON: 26 games, 26 starts, 3 goals (1 game, 1 start with St. Etienne)
Dominic Cervi, GK, Celtic -- Not in the 18 for Celtic's 4-0 victory over Heart of Midlothian on Wednesday or for Celtic's 1-0 victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday. SEASON: 7 games, 7 starts, 37 saves, 8 goals allowed, 2 clean sheets (all with Greenock Morton)
Maurice Edu, M, Rangers FC -- Started, played 90 minutes and assisted on a goal in Rangers' 4-1 victory over Dunfermline Athletic on Saturday. Edu completed a run in the box off a combination play and was able to get a touch on the ball to his right in the face of an onrushing goalkeeper and defender to set up David Healy for a goal that tied the score at 1-1 at the time. SEASON: 31 games, 29 starts, 3 goals
DaMarcus Beasley, M, Puebla -- In the 18, came on as a 65th-minute substitute in Puebla's 2-0 victory over Pumas UNAM on Sunday. Beasley had a hand in assisting on a goal just after coming on, sending in a cross from the left that was touched to Luis Garcia for an important insurance goal. SEASON: 6 games, 4 starts, 1 goal
Jonathan Bornstein, D, Tigres UANL -- In the 18, did not play in Tigres' 2-0 victory over San Luis on Saturday. SEASON: 2 game, 2 starts
Edgar Castillo, D, Tijuana -- Started, played 90 minutes in Tijuana's 0-0 draw with Cruz Azul on Sunday. SEASON: 6 games, 6 starts
Joe Corona, M/F, Tijuana -- Started, played 59 minutes in Tijuana's 0-0 draw with Cruz Azul on Sunday. SEASON: 5 games, 2 starts
Michael Orozco Fiscal, D, San Luis -- Started, played 90 minutes in San Luis' 2-0 loss to Tigres UANL on Saturday. SEASON: 6 games, 6 starts
Greg Garza, D/M, Tijuana -- In the 18, did not play in Tijuana's 0-0 draw with Cruz Azul on Sunday. SEASON: 1 game
Herculez Gomez, F, Santos Laguna -- In the 18, did not play in Santos Laguna's 3-1 loss to Morelia on Friday. SEASON: 3 games
Sonny Guadarrama, M, Atlante -- Not in the 18 for Atlante's 2-0 loss to Toluca on Saturday. SEASON: 1 game
Jose Francisco Torres, M, Pachuca -- Started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Pachuca's 2-0 victory over Estudiantes Tecos on Saturday. SEASON: 6 games, 6 starts