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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

USA Crushed by Loss of Davies

Just as the USA is soaring off a new high, on Tuesday the Americans suffered a crushing blow: the loss of Charlie Davies. According to reports, early Tuesday morning Davies was involved in a car crash in which he suffered a lacerated bladder and fractures in his leg, face, and elbow.

In Davies, the Americans lose an enormous up-and-coming talent, an already proven goal scorer on the international scene, and a flourishing partnership in the front of their formation.

Davies’ international career is young, but this summer marked his breakthrough with the national team. He scored two of the Americans’ biggest goals during the club offseason: one against Egypt to initiate their incredible Confederations Cup comeback, and another against Mexico, becoming only the fourth American do to so at the Azteca.

Davies’ contribution to the national team is far beyond statistical, though. Nearly an unknown two years ago, Davies burst onto the American soccer scene as a serious potential solution to the nation’s attacking woes. He brought everything ideal in an American striker: lightning speed, relentless runs through the defense, and most importantly, the ability to put the ball in the goal.

The Sochaux striker also has developed a fantastic relationship with fellow up-and-coming talent and striking partner Jozy Altidore. While Altidore stretches the defense, Davies latches on to space, and the two have thrived together, complimenting each other’s contrasting styles in attack.

All this, and everything Bob Bradley has taken so long to build with Davies’ services, is gone with a car crash. At least for six months we hear, maybe even a year. To not have a fully fit Charlie Davies at next year’s World Cup would hurt, but to not even have Charlie Davies at next year’s World Cup would be destructive.

The good news for Americans, though, is that Davies’ likely replacement is coming off perhaps the best game of his life. Saturday night Colorado Rapids striker Conor Casey scored his first two international goals in a 3-2 win over Honduras.

Casey will restore Davies’ work rate, but his similarity to Altidore’s playing style will deprive the team of its diversity in the striking department. Both big-boned, Casey and Altidore each bring fast-paced, rugged efforts against opposing defenses. Thus, with Davies’ absence, the United States will lose a crucial dimension their recently successful offense.

Yet even with no regard for style of play, the USA still suffer from what cannot be replaced. Quite simply, Charlie Davies is a better player than Conor Casey, or whoever will take over his role.

It’s disheartening to see this happen to Charlie Davies. The 22-year old’s career has taken off over the past year, and he has been in super form. Davies now may find himself back at square one with his professional career once his injuries heal.

Building a team has been a long process for the USMNT, one to which Davies has made significant contributions. This disaster happens just as it finally seemed both Davies' and his team's hard work was beginning to pay itself off. Out of nowhere, Charlie Davies' terribly unfortunate injury thrusts an enormous setback upon himself and the American soccer project.

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