Brad Davis was sitting in his truck when the big news popped into his inbox: he had been named to the 30-man U.S. preliminary World Cup roster.
He had been waiting for that joyful verdict for hours, and craving it for days, months, even years, as each stand-out performance inched the dream of representing his country on soccer’s greatest stage a little closer to reality, gradually molding it from improbable to possible.
“We didn’t know when it was going to come, so I just tried to be normal. I have kids at home and they keep me busy. I just tried to keep my mind off of it a whole lot,” Davis told reporters by telephone after U.S. Soccer’s roster announcement, which came just before 2 p.m. CT on Monday.
“When I finally got the email I was in my truck and immediately called my wife. I was about two minutes from home, let her know and came home and it was hugs all round, a really emotional moment for all of us,” he said.
Long one of MLS’s most skilful and productive midfielders, the Dynamo captain has 14 U.S. caps and made his national team debut back in 2005. A couple of years later, after long spells out of the reckoning, and in his late twenties, it seemed his moment had passed when he failed to make the cut for the 2010 World Cup roster.
However, Jurgen Klinsmann took over as head coach following the finals and in 2013 handed Davis a fresh opportunity to impress on the back of his consistent, hard-working and assist-laden displays for the Dynamo. He seized the chance and has so far made nine appearances under Klinsmann while maintaining his excellent form in MLS. Davis has a goal or an assist in each of his past six league matches.
The 32-year-old knows he still has a lot of work to do in the coming weeks if he is to earn a place on the pared-down 23-man roster, which under FIFA rules must be finalized by June 2. He is by no means certain of a seat on the plane to Brazil, but as he prepares to meet up with his fellow internationals he reflected on a wonderful opportunity that just a couple of years ago seemed like a pipe dream.
“I one hundred percent thought my national team career was over,” he said. “I can’t explain to you how it feels to be sitting here with this opportunity. I told myself, forget about the national team, let’s move on—you still have a lot to give, you still have a club that wants you here, an organization that values you, and I knew I still had a lot left in the tank and I put that to work.”
And so, a veteran who made his MLS debut back in 2002 refused to accept that he had peaked, rejected the idea that as he got older he was bound to decline. Forget any notions of a career twilight: Davis chose the spotlight. He redoubled his efforts, earning an international renaissance through sheer dedication and the confidence to cope with pressure and produce strong showings whenever Klinsmann put him on the field.
“It’s been an unbelievable ride the past year and a half, it’s been great to be back playing with the national team. This is a huge moment not just for me but for my family as well; there’s been a lot of hard work and dedication for many years put into this opportunity right here. Just a lot of emotion, a lot of excitement right now,” Davis said.
“I wanted to get better, I strived to get better. It was kind of one of those things where somebody told me ‘no, you can’t do it’, and now I really want to do it,” added Davis, who thanked his family for their support.
“And I worked that much harder just to give everything I’d got, I didn’t want to walk away from the game knowing that I’d left something in the tank … and now all of a sudden the fruit of the labors is sitting right here in front of me with this opportunity. I’m so close and I’m going to keep fighting and hopefully I make that final cut.“
Training camp begins on Wednesday in Palo Alto, California, so Davis will miss this Saturday’s Dynamo fixture at BBVA Compass Stadium against the Los Angeles Galaxy (7:30 p.m. CT; TICKETS). Davis is one of ten midfielders on Klinsmann’s roster, which contains fifteen players currently with MLS clubs.
“I think he’s seen all of us quite a few times, he knows what we can bring to the table,” said Davis. “It’s just about going in there and stepping up, really, and just playing better, playing consistently, fitting in with the group and giving everything you have.
“There’s battles, there’s competition at each and every position from front to back and I think he’s going to have some very difficult situations but I’m excited for the challenge, I think I just need to go in and continue to progress on the form I’ve been having lately. Most of all it’s just going to be coming down to a lot of hard work.”
That, and the talent which has made it quite a couple of years for Davis: from scoring the first goal in the Dynamo’s first-ever game at BBVA Compass Stadium on May 12, 2012, to this news exactly two years later. From a spectacular shot hit outside the box, to a precious message in his inbox.
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com and HoustonDashSoccer.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.