Brad Davis has been a professional soccer player since George W. Bush was in his first term as president and Linkin Park was the biggest thing on St. Louis rock radio, so forgive him if he’s having a hard time remembering what it was like to be the new guy in camp.
Asked earlier this week at the US national team’s camp at São Paulo FC’s Barrafunda training ground what it was like to be a rookie at the World Cup, Davis couldn’t help but laugh at the idea that even at 32 years old and more than a decade into his career, he could still be walking around Brazil with wide eyes.
“Do I feel like a rookie here?” he said with a laugh. “Not at this point. I’ve had a pretty long career and a pretty good career, and I’m excited to be here … I don’t see myself as a rookie by any means.”
Few of those familiar with the Houston Dynamo winger’s impressive career could argue that. Davis has been one the steadiest players in MLS for more than a decade, helping the Dynamo to two straight MLS Cups in 2006-07 and a run of seven postseason appearances in the past eight seasons.
There’s also an argument that he was snubbed for the 2011 league MVP award – Dwayne De Rosario won the nod, despite Davis’ league-leading 16 assists while starting every game of the regular season – and this year he just might pass MLS greats Preki and Carlos Valderrama into third place among the league’s all-time leaders in assists.
And for those who think he’s relatively new to success inside the US system, think again. Davis goes all the way back to the team of American youngsters at the 2001 U-20 World Championship in Argentina, where he played alongside future stars Landon Donovan, Oguchi Onyewu and DaMarcus Beasley. Davis was still in college then – a star attraction and a second-team All-American at St. Louis University – and he scored a goal in the team’s group-stage romp over Ukraine before the team was bounced in the knockout round.
While he fell largely off the international map for years after scoring the decisive kick in a penalty shootout in the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup final, he notched two assists in seven appearances during a resurgent stretch with the national team in 2013, a prelude to his selection to Jurgen Klinsmann’s 23-man roster in Brazil.
“I’d been wanting a chance to come in and play, and he gave me that opportunity,” Davis said. “He gave me opportunities in the qualifiers, so he trusts in me as a player and he believes in what I can do … He’s kind of brought out more of the attacking side of me, more of the freedom to go, create and attack, and that’s a little bit different here from down in Houston.
“It’s been a lot of fun.”
The inclusion of Davis and fellow veterans Kyle Beckerman, Chris Wondolowski and Nick Rimando is also a nod to time served for the quartet of hardy MLS lifers hoping to figure into Klinsmann’s plans when the Americans open group play on June 16 against Ghana in Natal (5 pm CT, ESPN/Univision).
“I think in the past it looked more like you needed to go to Europe or the Mexican league or something like that, with the past coaches, besides a select few,” Davis said. “With Jurgen as the coach now, I don’t think he really minds where you’re playing at. Obviously where the talent in Major League Soccer is now – with 10 guys on this team from Major League Soccer – it’s a testament to where the league’s going and where it’s gone.”
Strangely enough, there was a time when Davis may not have ended up in MLS at all. He said this week that as a teenager teams in both France and Denmark scouted him, and Dutch powerhouses PSV Eindhoven and Ajax took a look around the time Davis and the US Under-20 side were playing in Argentina.
“I had opportunities to leave when I was younger, I just didn’t know if personally it was the best thing for me,” he said. “I loved being able to play soccer, but I loved being able to play soccer at home in the States. I believed in the league, and I believed where it was going.
“You look back and you always wonder, but for me at the time I thought it was the right situation for me to grow. I had opportunities, but I just decided to stick around.”