Charlie Davies has seen the photograph. Taken on the morning of Oct. 13, 2009, it shows the back section of a gray Infiniti SUV, sheared clean in half by the impact of a horrific one-car accident on the George Washington Parkway in northern Virginia. One passenger in the vehicle died. Davies, a blazing striker who had emerged as a vital piece of the U.S. World Cup puzzle, was in the back. Partway through the ride he had put on his seat belt, a move that probably saved his life. "When I saw the car, I thought, Was I really in there?" says Davies. "How could someone just six inches in front of me die and I'm still alive?"
At first the concern wasn't so much whether Davies would play soccer again, but whether he'd be able to walk, run and lead a normal life. His bones and tissues were as mangled as the remnants of that SUV: broken femur, tibia and fibula in his right leg; torn ligament in his left knee; fractured eye socket, nose and left elbow; serious head trauma; and a lacerated bladder. By the time Davies checked out of the National Rehabilitation Hospital five weeks after the crash, he'd made up his mind about Washington, D.C., the place where everything had changed for him. "I thought the city was just bad luck," he says. "I didn't want to ever come back."