The X-Factor

The New England Revolution head into the 2014 season with perhaps the deepest group of creative attacking players the club has ever seen. With a mix of returning players and new additions, the coaching staff had a chance to see what they have in preseason.

One player they still haven’t had the chance to see much of on the field in game action, despite his addition midseason last year, is forward Charlie Davies. The former U.S. National Teamer had hoped to go into preseason healthy and competing for a spot, but a calf injury before the start of camp derailed those plans.

Charlie Davies poses in the new Revolution jersey at the team's jersey launch even at  Royale Boston on Tuesday. (Photo credit: Sean Donahue)

Charlie Davies poses in the new Revolution jersey at the team’s jersey launch event at Royale Boston on Tuesday. (Photo credit: Sean Donahue)

“He’s the x-factor for us right now,” said Revolution head coach Jay Heaps. “Unfortunately he had an injury that he brought into preseason and we never got him until the last ten minutes of a game in the last preseason game. He’s got a long way to go in terms of where he impacts our team, but he’s our x-factor because I think he’s versatile enough to play any of the three attacking forward positions. For me we’re looking at him as someone that pushes the guys in front of him.”

Now, finally healthy, Davies – who said he felt good after his first 17 preseason minutes – is working his way back to match fitness. The lack of a preseason hurt his chances of making an immediate impact this season, but the Manchester, N.H. native will have ample opportunity to push for minutes up top and on the wings as a pacy forward who could bring a different dimension to the Revolution’s attack.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” said Davies. “Because I knew coming into the end of last season that it was basically just to kind of get to know the team, the formations and where I’ll fit in. I think I was able to take that in and realize the situation which was the team worked so well together for most of the season and I had to take a back seat and just kind of learn.

“This offseason, I’ve put in so much work to be ready for this year, especially for the start of the season and really hit the ground running. Unfortunately the week before preseason I think I pushed myself too much and ended up with a calf strain that wouldn’t go away really until this past week, so it was pretty frustrating knowing how hard I worked that it’s not quite going the way I want. But, I think I’m still in perfect contention to kind of start the way I wanted to.”

What would a fully healthy 27-year-old Davies bring to the team? In 2009, Davies was in the midst of a promising career in Europe and could be penciled in as a starter for the U.S. National Team. A fatal October 13 car crash changed all that, derailing Davies career as he recovered from several serious injuries including a broken leg.

While his European career didn’t get back on track, Davies showed promise he was returning to his former self with 11 goals in 26 appearances in a 2011 loan to D.C. United. Davies then returned to MLS in August last season on loan with the Revolution, and though he saw just 23 minutes of playing time, the club bought him permanently from Danish side Randers FC prior to this season.

Expecting a return to the 2009 form that saw the former Boston College striker play a key role in the U.S. run to the Confederations Cup Final could be asking a bit much, but if Davies can find that touch that made him a double digit MLS goalscorer three years ago, he’ll provide a big boost to the attack.  Whether on the wing, up top, or perhaps as a second striker in a different formation, Davies provides a different skillset than many of the other Revolution attackers and could add another dimension to the offense.

“I’m kind of fortunate because I can play all three [attacking positions] – left, right, center,” said Davies. “It’s wherever coach Heaps thinks that I’ll fit best, but I believe I’ll be starting as a winger and just using my speed to get in behind and open up the midfield for the rest of the guys. We have a very dynamic midfield, I think one of the best in MLS, so I think it’s important that there are guys on the wings that have speed that can stretch the defenses.”

One key change in the Revolution offense this season is the loss of striker Juan Agudelo and the addition of his likely replacement in the starting line-up, Teal Bunbury. Davies saw plenty of Agudelo last season and recognizes how Bunbury will change the offense.

“I think the biggest difference is Teal is a little be quicker, faster, and he likes to get in behind more whereas Juan looks to combine a little bit more,” said Davies. “I think that’s the biggest difference between the two.  We have more speed and I think everyone’s excited that we were able to get Teal. He’s a good guy and it will be great to play with him.”

With Bunbury’s added pace, a combination with a fit Davies could provide opposing defenses nightmares should Heaps put his speed to use on the wings, whether as a starter or a substitute.

Wherever he plays, Davies is excited for a new start in 2014 and looking forward to seeing the field.

“I’m really looking forward to the start of the season,” said Davies. “I’m fit, I’m healthy, and I’m hungry. I think that’s the most important part, I’m hungry.”

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About Sean Donahue

Sean Donahue has been covering the New England Revolution since 2002 for various publications. He has covered four MLS Cups, in addition to covering various international matches, including World Cup Qualifying and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He has done freelance work for the AP and ESPN Boston. Sean hosted Revolution Recap, a weekly radio program covering the New England Revolution and U.S. Men's National Team from 2005-2008. He is a member of the North American Soccer Reporters. Sean can be reached at nesoccertoday@gmail.com or followed on twitter @SeanLDonahue