By Dave Johnson
A year ago at this time it was hard to imagine that D.C. United would have the good fortune to add a forward of Charlie Davies' pedigree to the roster. Now it makes perfect sense that United is moving on without Davies and with questions still to be answered up top.
D.C United not surprisingly passed on an option to purchase Davies from French club FC Sochaux when his loan deal expired on December 1st. Davies played a big role in starting Uniteds climb back to respectability, but like the team stumbled at the end.
United fans will forever remember Davies emotional Black and Red debut when he scored two goals in a 3-1 win over the Columbus Crew in the 2011 season opener at R.F.K. Stadium. A tearful Davies could barely describe his emotions in post-match interviews on Comcast SportsNet.
Davies just getting back on the playing field less than two years removed from a near fatal car crash was amazing enough, but then to score two goals was almost unbelievable. It was also poignant that Davies scored in the same stadium where back in October of 2009 fans profoundly remembered him as the U.S Mens National team played Costa Rica while he fought for his life in a Washington, D.C. hospital.
A United team that spent all of 2010 struggling to cobble together goals had a legitimate goal scorer. Davies racked up five goals in the opening four games of the season and he was conjuring up images of the summer of 2009 when he became the breakout story at the Confederations Cup in South Africa.
There was even talk that Davies was ready to be back in the National Team mix and it did not seem out of the realm of possibility that he could be on the Gold Cup roster. That talk faded as it started to become clear, that while Davies had made great strides in his recovery, he was not back to where he was before that tragic October night.
As the summer played out with United, Davies struggled to score. In a June game in Real Salt Lake he scored one of his four penalty kick goals on the season, but not without controversy. To avoid a Nat Borchers challenge Davies dived to earn the penalty kick and was later fined by MLS for the embellishment on the play.
The end of 2011 for Davies was marked by mostly frustration. Davies scored three goals in a September game against Chivas USA. It turned out to be a false re-start for both Davies and the team. Davies did not score the rest of the way and his inclusion in the starting eleven was no longer a guarantee.
If Davies did not come with a price tag from FC Sochaux, it could be argued that it would be worth it to stay with Davies and hope for more progress of what really was just a first step back in 2011. Instead it better that United moves on and Davies will likely end up on loan somewhere outside MLS.
With the 2012 season opener now set for March 10, United will be focusing on adding a forward. As a team progress was made on offense in 2011 punctuated by Dwayne De Rosarios Golden Boot season and Chris Pontius best season as pro with seven goals and five assists before his season ended with broken leg.
Josh Wolff will be back and he showed with his five goals and seven assists in 2011 that he can still be a factor at the age of 34. Still Wolff is needed for guidance and leadership as much as goals and assists on this young United team.
The recent addition of Robbie Russell from Real Salt Lake is a confident boost to the back, but acquiring defenders is a more certain acquisition. Forwards are often purchased on the promise of the past without a guarantee that production will continues in the future.
Goal scoring is a slippery slope. Joseph Ngwenya certainly reminded us of that as he went goalless in 16 matches. In short replacing Davies will be essential, but far from easy.