New England Soccer Today

Looking Back at the Davies Trade

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Nearly a full year after pulling off one of the most shocking trades in club history, the Revolution will welcome back former fan favorite Charlie Davies and the Union on Saturday at Gillette Stadium. To say that plenty has transpired since the former Boston College was dealt to Philadelphia would be an understatement.

Now, as Davies gets set to return to the region, we look back at a deal that sent shockwaves from Boston to Bangor to New Bedford and many points in between.


With time running out in the transfer window, the Philadelphia Union made a last-minute push to acquire Charlie Davies from the New England Revolution as they geared up for the 2016 playoffs. Although the offer was unexpected, New England pulled the trigger and sent one of the most popular players in the club’s recent history to Philadelphia.

The backstory of Charlie Davies’ 2016 season made this trade incredibly difficult to comprehend. In March, Davies had twin boys who were born premature and required medical attention for months before being able to go home. Shortly after the birth of his children, Davies suffered an adductor strain and a subsequent MRI revealed he had a rare form of cancer called liposarcoma.

Soon after, Davies found himself without a starting role on the team he led in scoring the year before. The Revolution jumped on trading striker Kei Kamara when the opportunity arose, who had become unsettled with his former club, Crew SC.

Nevertheless, Davies made his return in late-July against Orlando City SC off the bench, a role he likely would have embraced, but was wasn’t given the opportunity to fully realize with Kamara, Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, and emerging super-sub Femi Hollinger-Janzen all ahead of him on the depth chart.

Why New England Made the Trade

New England was in the midst of a playoff hunt as well as the later rounds of the U.S. Open Cup, and a returning Davies was expected to provide quality minutes to a squad in the midst of a summer slump. At least that’s what it looked like initially.

With Kamara and Agudelo getting the bulk of the minutes up top during the dying days of the 4-2-3-1, and Davies’ role clearly diminished, the charismatic striker was growing unhappy with the lack of playing time. Reading between the lines in the aftermath of the deal, it appears that Davies, through his agent, requested a trade. A trade that, on paper, the Revolution reluctantly agreed to help facilitate.

Naturally, there was a wave of anger and negativity thrown at the organization in the wake of the news. Trading a hometown fan-favorite who is returning from beating cancer had the potential was the stuff PR nightmares are made of. And for a franchise already criticized by fans for not improving the team over the summer, well, the Davies deal only made it worse.

Revolution President Brian Bilello commented publicly shortly after the trade was finalized, stating on twitter: “Very difficult for us. Key was making sure that it was something Charlie wanted for him and his family. Would never have done it otherwise.”

The Revolution received an undisclosed amount of General Allocation Money, an undisclosed amount of Targeted Allocation Money, and the Union’s first round selection in the 2018 SuperDraft, an offer they found too good to turn down for a player whose role was significantly scaled back.

With the transfer window closed shortly after the deal was finalized, the Revolution brass banked on the future value gained in the trade would outmatch the value of Davies coming off the bench in the stretch of the 2016 season.

Why Philadelphia Made the Trade

The Union ended the 2016 summer transfer window as the most active team, priming for a playoff push. Looking to improve their roster after a rough 1-4-1 stretch left them in fourth place, Philadelphia acquired Alejandro Bedoya from FC Nantes, while sending Sebastien Le Toux to the Colorado Rapids for general allocation money. With a lack of depth behind C.J. Sapong at striker, the Union targeted Davies in the 11th hour as a re-enforcement.

Although Davies had only made one appearance since returning from injury, the Union saw Davies as a late-game substitute that could stretch the field and play well with Sapong. After recording 10 goals and 4 assists for the Revolution in 2016, Philadelphia saw him as a perfect fit for their attack.

“Maybe there’s a window where Charlie can get a fresh start,” said Union head coach Jim Curtin. “He’s been there for a few years. I value him tremendously as a striker, a guy who has been a proven goalscorer in the league, has scored goals in the big moments, so when the weather starts to get a little cooler, he scores some big goals. He’s been there, he’s done it, and he’s been through the ends of seasons and the playoffs.”

What New England Got Out of the Trade

The Revolution ended up losing in the U.S. Open Cup finals and missing the playoffs, being edged out by Davies’ new team, the Union. The Revolution struggled immediately after the Davies trade, but caught fire towards the end of the season, ending the MLS campaign with a 5-5-1 record following the trade. Although the team fell short in both competitions, it’s unclear how much of an effect Davies would have had on those results.

Davies’ absence was replaced by Femi Hollinger-Janzen, Teal Bunbury, and Lee Nguyen. While Bunbury struggled adjusting from the wing to forward, Hollinger-Janzen had proved himself as a serviceable reserve in the midst of Davies injury. It’s debatable if Davies would have been an improvement over the alternatives the Revolution were left with.

The Revolution received the Union’s first-round selection, which would be a top-10 draft pick if the current standings hold. That pick alone tips this trade in the Revolution’s favor, as the Revolution could find more value in a high draft pick over whatever role Davies would have had in 2016, which would be limited with Agudelo and Kamara in the fold.

On top of the pick is an undisclosed amount of Targeted Allocation and General Allocation Money, which admittedly makes this portion of the trade difficult to evaluate. But with GAM and TAM used to bring in Benjamin Angoua and Antonio Delamea during the winter, it’s likely the Revolution saw allocation money as a mechanism to address their biggest need: defensive reinforcements.

What Philadelphia Got Out of the Trade

Less than ten days following the trade to Philadelphia, Charlie Davies returned to Foxboro and made a late game assist, helping put a solid nail in the coffin on a 4-0 victory for the Union. It was a critical three road points for the team against a team they were battling with in the standings. That game would prove to be a difference maker, as the Union made the sixth and final playoff spot over the Revolution based on goal differential.

However, outside of that single match, it’s safe to say the Davies trade never paid significant dividends for Philadelphia.

Davies’ impact was barely felt during the 2016 season, only logging 81 minutes in eight appearances. Davies never started, never scored, and only recorded one shot after the trade. His only assist with the Union came in the August 13th game against the Revolution, a game which had already been decided by the time he entered it. He did make an appearance in the playoffs: a six-minute cameo in a 3-1 defeat to Toronto FC.

Although he re-signed with Philadelphia, it’s now obvious he’s fallen out of the Union’s plans, only making one appearance this season for 21 minutes with the squad and finding himself getting time with USL sides.

It’s hard in retrospect to understand what the Union’s strategy was in being willing to pay a large price for Davies, while they were unwilling to provide him with any minutes. Regardless, the Davies experiment in Philadelphia one year later appears to be a bona fide bust.

Who won the trade?

It’s fair to say that the Revolution came out the winner of this deal in hindsight. While Davies may have helped the Revs reach the playoffs if given the playing time, it’s unlikely his presence would have had a significant enough impact to make a deep playoff run.

The more likely scenario would have seen Davies fitting into a reserve role with the Revs and leaving the team following the season. If the Revolution received any significant amount of allocation money, or use Philadelphia’s first-round selection widely and draft an impact player, the front office will come away with an incredible return.

Meanwhile, the Union hardly allowed Davies to see the field during the past year. It was an unfortunate turn of events for Davies, who appeared to be primed for a rebirth in the city of Brotherly Love.

There’s still time for Davies to make a splash with the Union, and if not, there hopefully is another chapter in his career. But for the Union, the trade, which may have seemed like coup at the time, turned into a straight waste of allocation money and a draft pick.

Yes, the Revolution may have gotten the better of the deal. But it was the kind of deal that, even a year later, the New England front office probably wishes it didn’t have to make given what Davies brought the team, both on and off the field.

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