FOXBOROUGH — Supreme optimism helped carry Charlie Davies through his recovery from a devastating automobile accident five years ago to becoming the leading scorer in the playoffs as the Revolution prepare for Sunday’s MLS Cup final.
“I remember going to visit him in the hospital and he was all plastered up, bandages everywhere,” recalled Ed Kelly, who was Davies’s coach at Boston College. “And there’s Charlie with his thumb in the air. Like he’s still the same.”
But Davies also credited a difficult upbringing in Manchester, N.H., for providing some of the tools for dealing with life’s problems.
During a revealing press conference Wednesday, Davies said his remarkable return “starts when I was a younger kid.
“I’ve always had to be the father, the mother, and the brother in my family growing up. Due to my mother having mental illness and my father struggling with drug addiction, I’ve always had to keep everything to myself and learn how to deal with it and try and be positive and try and be the positive figure for my brother and for my family.
“Thankfully, I have the most amazing wife who’s stood by me from the time I was in the hospital — I think the nurses were more worried about her than myself. She was there night through day.
“I also have extremely great friends, instrumental through my recovery process. They were always giving me that positive reinforcement I needed occasionally.
“I had amazing people who helped me get through the rehab process. It’s always been, ‘Do I need to talk to a therapist?’ I feel like every day I’m talking to a therapist because it was always brought up, the accident, and eventually it was talked about so much it kind of served as kind of a release for me because I was able to express my feelings and how I felt about it and I was then able to let it go.
“Mentally, I’ve always been strong, but I’ve always had great support. I think I’m the strongest I’ve ever been mentally, and I’m always trying to pass it along to my teammates. I think, obviously, it’s great they can look at me and kind of use me as someone to look at and say, ‘If he can do it, I can do it,’ or ‘if he can do that, it’s not impossible.’
“I’ve always tried to help guys in the locker room with being positive, because in this career things can change like that — one second I think I’m playing in the World Cup, the next it’s people are wondering if I’m going to walk again.
“So make sure guys in the locker room realize how special this occasion is and how lucky we are to play and don’t take it for granted. So, it’s been a blessing.”
Davies was indeed on top of his game and on top of the world as the US played World Cup qualifying matches in October 2009.
Davies had teamed with Landon Donovan — an opponent when the Revolution meet the Los Angeles Galaxy Sunday — to spark the US against Mexico and during a second-place finish in the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa.
“At the time of my accident, my confidence couldn’t get any higher,” Davies said. “I was at peak form and now I feel like my confidence is extremely high but I feel like I’m a little bit of a different player just from all the experiences I’ve had.
“I feel like I’m a smarter player. Obviously, with age comes maturity. I feel like I’m much more mature and I think I’m much more of a team player and I understand the concept of what it means to be a teammate and what it means to win.
“I’ve grown so much and feel like I’m not only a better person, I feel like I’m a better player for that.
“I guess we’ll see shortly where I am exactly, but I feel like I’ve come a long way. I feel like I’m where I need to be at the moment. I’ve just got to continue improving and working on my game and I think I can continue to shock some people.”
Davies has regained most of his physical abilities (“Athletically, he’s there, he can go by anyone,” said Revolution coach Jay Heaps), and he has four playoff goals, the tying score in a 2-2 result to eliminate the New York Red Bulls Saturday breaking Taylor Twellman’s team postseason record.
Now, Davies is looking forward to a reunion with Donovan, who plans to retire after the game.
“Unfortunately, I feel like I have to send him out with a loss,” Davies said, “which is not the best for him, because he’s been so instrumental for US soccer and me personally.
“I think he’s pushed all of us in the younger generation to kind of reach these new heights, to be able to perform in the World Cup, to be able to play in Europe, and he’s been the guy that pushed us all to do that.
“So it will be great to play against him in the final in his last game. But I hate to say I hope that we beat them and he doesn’t do so well.”