The other day I was cutting the grass at my new house — which had grown quite long due to the previous tennants being lazy bastards — and was feeling like I was cutting elephant grass in India. It was a windy day, and as I was pushing through the nearly knee-deep grass, I saw what I thought to be a leaf blowing in the wind along the ground. Being a man, I of course had to gun right for it, hoping to shred it up with the mower into a million tiny pieces.
But then the “leaf” moved again, against the wind and very quickly. Confused, I screeched the mower to a halt to avoid running it over. This was no tan leaf. Instead, I found it was actually a tiny tan kitten.
Now it’s important to know that I’m an animal lover, and am quick to get attached to puppies and kitties much like your average third grader. Not helping the equation was that the kitten looked just like the cat I had growing up, so my heart strings were definitely being tugged upon.
My fianceé and I had recently talked about getting a cat to help warm our new dwelling, so I figured we had just hit a goldmine. She (shockingly) fell in love with it immediately, so that wasn’t a hard sell on the significant other front. I was already calculating how many hours I could spend in the next few days having the cat chase a laser pointer.
But, of course, things are never quite so simple.
After taking the cat in to a local pet store, they informed me that the kitten was about a month old and still needed to be bottle fed. That requires tons of attention, as you’re supposed to feed them at least five times a day. Not easy when both my wife-to-be and I are working-class folk.
Checking with all of the neighbors to make sure it wasn’t their cat, we determined that it was a neighborhood stray’s kitten. Which means this cat certainly wasn’t litter trained yet. Throw in the fact that we weren’t even fully moved into our new house yet and couldn’t keep it at either of our current residences, and it started to become very clear that the timing just wasn’t right for keeping the cat.
Together, we made the decision to give the cat up. It crushed us both to give it away, yet we knew that it was better for us and the kitten to find it a proper home. Maybe if it had been a couple weeks later it would have worked, but this just wasn’t the right time to keep a new pet that needed lots of attention. Yet despite this, I don’t think my fianceé has stopped crying yet….
So why did I ust spend 500 words talking about a kitty on my soccer blog? Rest easy WSOTP fans: I’m not changing this into a stray animal blog… not yet, anyway.
I think my experience with kitten is the perfect analogy for what Charlie Davies is going through right now after missing out on making the USMNT roster for this summer’s World Cup.
So far in his career, it’s all been about timing for Charlie.
Davies burst onto the scene — stepping out from the tall grass just like the kitten — at the right time. He was inspirational for the national team at the Confederations Cup, building a strong connection between mainstays such as Landon Donovan and Jozy Altidore. Jozy would hold the ball up, and Charlie would run through off of him. He and Donovan would often combine like they had been playing together for years.
To be honest, I hadn’t seen anyone in the USMNT with his speed up top since Ernie Stewart. After his opening goal against Mexico at the Azteca, it became clear that Charlie was an emerging force for the US. His timing couldn’t have been better, as he was filling a role that Bob Bradley had desperately been trying to fill for his entire reign: the foil to Altidore.
Alas, Dvies’ timing isn’t always good. And you could easily say his timing was poor for choosing to be in a car after curfew that fateful night in DC.
No one was surprised when the initial reports came out saying that Charlie would miss the World Cup due to the horrific injuries he suffered during the accident. To be honest, he was lucky enough to survive the accident. But we all were shocked and stunned when it was revealed (rather early on I must say) that Davies looked to be on track for a miraculous recovery and could possibly be able to return to action with Sochaux before the end of the season. The World Cup started to look like a possibility again.
I’ll have to admit: I jumped on the bandwagon. I wanted to believe. I debated ordering my first USMNT kit in over ten years with a 9 on the back. I followed his tweets ever more closely, and scoured the intertubes looking for any info on his progress.
But in the end for Charlie, just as with the kitty, the timing just wasn’t right.
Despite being able to run, make cuts and starting to work with the ball, Sochaux wouldn’t declare Davies fit in time for him to play in their last match of the season. And while he returned to some light training with the squad, it was never a full contact return. Everything seemed to take a turn for the worse in mid-April, when Sochaux president Alendre Lacombe announced that Davies’ “season was over.”
This obviously made Bob Bradley’s decision much much harder. Would it be worth the risk to bring Davies into the pre-World Cup camp without having any indication of his fitness level? Would bringing him in too early cause irreparable harm to Davies’ still recovering body? Would it be worth sacrificing a roster spot for a guy that might not be able to even step on the pitch, when there’s a list of players who are fit and ready right now?
In the end, Bob knew how to answer these tough questions.
And while I’m sure his heart was saying, “Take the kid, he’s worked so hard to come back and he’s already paid so dearly for his mistakes.” (Is it just me, or does anyone else imagine Bob talking like he’s from the Victorian era… with his stoic/robotic look of disillusionment and proper posture.) But, his brain was telling him the smart thing to do is to leave Chuck behind.
Sure, I was shocked to read the USMNT provisional roster and not see Charlie’s name. But deep down, I wasn’t all that surprised either.
While I would love to have seen the kid in South Africa, I know that Charlie likely would have been nothing more than an emotional motivator for the team. He would probably have to watch from the bench every game, as several able-bodied player sits back at home in the States refusing to watch the tournament because they were left off the roster for a gimp.
It’s just too big of a gamble. And Bob ultimately made the hard, but correct, decision in deciding to not select Charlie. Maybe things would be different if he had a little more time to recover and prepare, but in the end that wasn’t the case.
So for now, the move to keep Davies off the plane will allow the national team to focus on the task at hand. It will allow them to spend time identifying Charlie’s replacement up top to partner with Jozy — paging Edson Buddle… Edson Buddle, please step up. And while I’m not sure that anyone will do the job quite as well as Davies did at last summer’s Confederations Cup, I have to think that someone can at least be identified to partially fill those shoes.
So the timing just isn’t right for CD9 right now, but it doesn’t have to remain that way for the future. He’s only 23 years old, and assuming he stays focused and regains full fitness, he’ll be hitting his peak just before the 2014 finals in Brazil. Hell, it’s conceivable that he could even make the 2018 finals wherever they might end up.
With that in mind, I think I might just go ahead and order that new US kit with Davies’ name on the back… that way I’ll be more than ready come 2014.