Monday, February 7, 2011

What Signing Charlie Davies Could Mean to DC United

The news last week that Charlie Davies was going to DC to trial with DC United generated much media attention, but whether or not he plays in DC remains uncertain. A host of interviews and press conferences led to only a single conclusion: Coach Ben Olsen will only retain Davies if he believes Davies can improve the club ability to compete in 2011. There are three key variables here that I think the club should account for in determining whether or not to accept the terms of the loan: health, competitiveness and ability to sell tickets.

Prior to his injury, Davies was easily the best US forward on the national team. In 2007, he scored 4 goals in 17 games in international competition. Whiles he only scored twice for Sochoux in 2009, he only played 8 games. Prior to that (2007-09), Davies scored 21 goals in 56 appearances for the Swiss club, Hammarby. Numbers alone can only tell so much, but it is clear that Davies found the net frequently in the two years before his injury. In order to reestablish himself, Davies will need to be in top physical form; not only to play 90 minutes (or close to that) per game, but also to heal quickly enough between games to be able play again or train.

At his best, Davies’s game is very physical; he is very fast and aggressive in the attack. This is important because Davies will be considerably less effective if he is not as quick as he used to be and therefore less confident. As a member of DC United, Pablo Hernandez arrived in camp mid-season last year. Interviews and articles indicated he was good on the ball. But he never developed much chemistry with the rest of the team; he kept the ball too long and his shots on goal lacked any real conviction. This is because the focus, confidence and determination that great strikers have were not exhibited by Hernandez.

Finally, DC United needs to benefit by selling tickets. Attendance was low last season, owing to the team’s poor performance. This season the team is aiming to increase per-game turnout and Charlie Davies’s signing could lead to just that. A source in the ticket office told me as soon as Davies’s name was mentioned, season ticket requests started coming in. This should not mean anything to Coach Olsen. But for DC United’s front office, increased turnouts and public support could yield increased revenue and perhaps a slightly better chance of coming to an agreement to build a new stadium.

So far, Davies seems to be doing well. He scored Friday in an inter-squad scrimmage and today had a goal and an assist in 74 minutes against the Canadian U-20 squad. Most importantly: for now he is showing that he can play long minutes and score at the same time.

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