WASHINGTON -- This was supposed to be a news-free visit to the nation's capital for the U.S. national team. The Yanks had already clinched a World Cup berth on Saturday. Their final qualifier here on Wednesday against Costa Rica was going to be "meaningless."
Try telling that to the U.S. players, who celebrated their dramatic come-from-behind 2-2 tie with an emotional tribute to forward Charlie Davies, who was seriously injured in an auto accident on Tuesday. Try telling that to the U.S. fans, who honored the No. 9-wearing Davies by standing, cheering and setting off red-white-and-blue smoke bombs during the game's ninth minute.
And try telling that to forward Jozy Altidore, one of Davies' best friends, who could barely contain his feelings during the game and after the final whistle. "I was very emotional the past few days, I'm not going to lie," Altidore said after Jonathan Bornstein's 95th-minute equalizer. "I just couldn't get my mind off it, you know what I mean? It's just unbelievable how your life can change in one night, in one minute, in one second."
Altidore had grown worried even before he and his teammates had learned of Davies' accident on Tuesday morning from coach Bob Bradley. After a team dinner on Monday night, Altidore had sent Davies a couple of text messages to check in. "I didn't get a response. He usually always responds to me."
Once Altidore found out what had happened, there was no chance this game would be meaningless. He wanted to score a goal for his friend and show off the T-shirt he was wearing, the one that read DAVIES 9 on it. But after Altidore picked up a yellow card in the 14th minute, Bob Bradley pulled him to the sideline. If Altidore scored and pulled off his shirt he would receive a second yellow and be suspended during the first game of the World Cup next year.
"He said, 'Don't pull your shirt off now. We all know you want to pull it off,'" Altidore recalled. "But, to be honest I, got so excited every time I got in front of the goal. I wanted to show [the T-shirt] so bad."