Inspirational performances and consistent production got Brad Davis to Brazil. Now the Dynamo captain is aiming for more of the same for the rest of the season, fortified by a boost in self-belief that comes from representing his country on soccer’s greatest stage.
The United States midfielder enters Saturday’s home match with Toronto FC (8 p.m. CT; TICKETS) surfing a wave of World Cup-inspired confidence. In the two games since returning from Brazil, Davis scored a pressurized late penalty kick to give the Dynamo a 2-2 tie with the New York Red Bulls then found the net twice against Toronto last Saturday in a 4-2 road loss.
In only ten MLS starts, he has already equalled his total of four regular season goals last year. One more set-up or score and Davis will have achieved double figures in combined goals and assists for the seventh straight MLS regular season. Though international call-ups and injury saw him miss nearly half the Dynamo’s league matches to date, he is still on pace for what statistically would be one of his best-ever campaigns.
His double at BMO Field continued a run that underlines Davis’s importance to the Dynamo. He has scored or contributed an assist in each of his past eight appearances for the club, stretching back to March 29.
Davis told reporters on Thursday that being a part of Jürgen Klinsmann’s squad at the World Cup has “given me a lot of confidence. As a player you just want to play at the highest level possible; there’s no reason to not come back, have fun, enjoy playing, enjoy competing and I’ve definitely done that,” he said.
“It’s nice to have him back, obviously the way he attacks the ball, sees the game, there’s a reason he’s on the World Cup squad and he’s our best player, no question about it, so moving forward it’s good to see him feeling good,” said goalkeeper Tally Hall.
“I had fun experiencing the World Cup from Houston, there was something so fun and special about it. I can’t imagine being there, I can’t imagine being a part of the national anthem down in Brazil, playing against [Germany, future] World Cup champions. That has to help and I think you can see he’s on fire right now. Of course that’s momentum building from the World Cup.”
Renowned for his set-piece prowess, Davis has also created 17 chances from open play in MLS in 2014, according to Opta. That is only four fewer than last year, when he started 25 league games. His passing accuracy in the opposition half is currently 84%—better than his percentages in the previous three years.
Individual accolades are less important to Davis than team victories, but those have been hard to come by in recent weeks. “Ultimately I want to win. So it’s a double-edged sword type deal right now,” he said. “Ultimately I want to be a part of a winning group and that’s what we all want to be a part of. Right now that’s what we’re trying to figure out, how to get in the W column.”
The Dynamo enter Saturday’s match at BBVA Compass Stadium playing catch-up in the Eastern Conference with 15 fixtures remaining. “There’s still a lot of points on the table but we’ve got to start earning them now. There’s no more ‘oh, we’ll get them next game,' things like that. We’ve got to go out and figure out ways to get results, especially in our home games. We have to figure out a way to get three points here Saturday night,” said Davis.
Received wisdom is that—especially in the modern, fast-paced game—outfield players peak in their mid-to-late twenties. But Davis, at 32, is obviously still firmly in his prime. And, still hungry for success, he's aiming to stay that way for as long as his body will let him. “It’s been a lot of work, it’s been a long road, been a lot of sacrifice off the field with not being able to do everything that I want to do, and concentrating on this game,” he said.
“But I only have this game for so long and I’m going to keep doing it until I can’t play. I’ve got a lot of other things I look forward to doing in life but those can wait. [Age is] just a number, and I’m going to keep plugging away for as long as I can.”
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.