Major League Soccer Talk proudly awards our first ever Americans Abroad Player of the Year recognition to Charlie Davies. No question exists as to the accomplishments of other Americans playing in Europe and Mexico this season. Clint Dempsey, Kasey Keller and Brian McBride all played critical roles in Fulham’s great escape from relegation. Michael Bradley scored goals with great frequency in Holland. Jozy Altidore transferred to one of the biggest clubs in Spain. Damarcus Beasley played a role in Rangers run to the UEFA Cup final. Jose Francisco Torres played a crucial role in Pachuca’s second consecutive CONCACAF Champions Cup triumph.
But several factors separate Davies accomplishments from the rest of the pack. Most importantly Davies was not a prodigy who attended the Bradenton Academy. He had to work his way through the maze of the US development system to finally get a call up for the U-20 team. Davies excelled at the college level with Boston College for three seasons and also played in the PDL during the college off seasons.
In other words Davies had to work his way to Europe and into the US National Team picture. Davies is the type of player who may never have been on Bruce Arena’s radar, but Bob Bradley pays more attention to secondary leagues in Europe than Arena did, and Davies got a full national team call up before ever playing for the US U-23 team. Davies’ play with Hammarby in Sweden is the reason he was in consideration for this award, but his play for the US National Team has also been exemplary.
Beginning with a hat trick in the final game of 2007, continuing through 2008, Davies has been the type of striker the US has seldom developed. His pace combined with a new found finishing touch could provide the perfect compliment to Jozy Altidore or Kenny Cooper in the US attack. Davies scored 14 goals for Hammarby in 2008, finishing 4th in the Allsvenskan. Additionally, Davies almost single handily brought the US out of the group stage of the Olympics with his late heroics against Nigeria. (A match which Peter Nowak bungled by taking off Jozy Altidore at the half and then not bringing Davies on for thirty minutes in the second half.) Davies and Altidore also combined on a classic goal in Port of Spain during World Cup qualifying.
Charlie Davies was not handed anything in the hierarcy of US Soccer. He didn’t sign a pro contract at 16 or 18 like so many of his US teamates but has worked his way to the top of the US food chain in remarkable fashion. Hats off to him on a job well done.