By Simon Evans
MIAMI (Reuters) - It has taken nearly five years but American striker Charlie Davies, whose career was nearly ended by a horrific car crash, is finally again looking like the player who once caused such excitement.
The 28-year-old scored both goals as New England Revolution drew 2-2 at home to New York Red Bulls on Saturday, earning his team a 4-3 aggregate victory in their Eastern Conference final and a place in the title-deciding MLS Cup.
Davies was set for a place in the World Cup in 2010, having impressed for the United States during their qualification campaign and in their run to the final of the 2009 Confederations Cup.
He even silenced a near 100,000 crowd at the Azteca Stadium in August 2009, with the opening goal against Mexico and, despite the U.S. losing that qualifier 2-1, Davies, who had just moved from Swedish club Hammarby to French team Sochaux, had cemented his place in Bob Bradley's plans.
Then, on the night before the final qualifier against Costa Rica, Davies was a passenger in a car which veered out of control in Washington, D.C., crashing into a railing and killing another passenger.
Davies suffered a series of internal and external injuries including a leg broken in two places, numerous facial fractures and bleeding on the brain.
He spent most of his time with Sochaux then just trying to fight back to fitness and eventually was loaned out to D.C. United in MLS and spent a year with Danish club Randers, where he failed to score a single goal. He was soon back in the States with D.C. United.
Now, though, after just over a year at Revolution, he is just 90 minutes away from the chance to bring the title to New England for the first time in what will be the club's fifth MLS Cup appearance.
"For me, personally, it's unimaginable really," said Davies.
"These five years, really just grinding it out. Things would go against me and there's a lot of tears and pain, but through it all I just continued to fight and stay with it and things have turned out for the best."
Revolution head coach Jay Heaps believes his club has offered the perfect environment for Davies to regain confidence and form.
"I think Charlie just needed to get somewhere and into the culture of a club," said Heaps. "I credit Charlie on all of it. We gave him a stable environment but he was fighting for his position every day.
"He got his first start in Dallas and then, as the season went on, you could see him taking more minutes, getting more starts and when he started, the team wanted to help him play better. I think that's a pretty amazing story."
His pace may never be what it was before the crash but Davies has shown with four goals in four games in the post-season that his instinct for goal remains intact.
With U.S national team coach Juergen Klinsmann lacking a genuine goalscorer, Davies could even be in the frame for a recall and a strong showing in the MLS Cup, against either L.A. Galaxy or Seattle Sounders, would certainly help that cause.
Davies was born just an hour from New England's Gillette Stadium in Foxborough and says winning his first title with his local club would be particularly pleasing.
"It's amazing to be in my first MLS Cup. Bringing a championship back to Boston would be the ultimate goal and something we hope we can do," he said.
(Editing by Ian Chadband)