They lined up side by side in Recife only two weeks ago, but Brad Davis and Michael Bradley will meet as rivals on Saturday as memories of the U.S. World Cup campaign slowly recede and the race for the MLS postseason gathers pace.
The Dynamo travel to BMO Field to face Bradley’s Toronto FC on Saturday (6 p.m. CT; CSN Plus) with three important Eastern Conference points on the line. Davis will go into the game with a full week of Dynamo training behind him after he returned from Brazil last week just in time to feature in a 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls at BBVA Compass Stadium.
“I was excited to be back in this group and playing again so it was a lot of fun being able to get out in front of our fans at the stadium, the Fourth of July was a great thing. So it was a lot of fun and [I’m now] looking forward to building on what we did the other night,” he told reporters at Houston Sports Park on Thursday.
Davis started alongside Bradley in the U.S. midfield for the 1-0 defeat to Germany in the Americans’ third Group G game. Germany have prospered since and will face Argentina in Sunday’s World Cup final. The Dynamo captain is now firmly back in the old routine but admitted it felt slightly surreal to be in Texas watching matches on television from a tournament he was playing in only last week.
While club duties are now the focus, Davis plans to cherish the memories from his Brazilian experience. “Throughout the days, sitting back and watching these games, certain moments it’s still tough to believe that not too long ago I was down there. You definitely have your moments. It was an exciting time, I’m going to hang on to it as long as I can, it was definitely the highlight of my soccer career, it was unbelievably fun. I’m still letting it sink in and I’m going to let it sink in as long as I possibly can,” he said.
After spending weeks training intensively with Bradley in Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad, Davis now has to try and keep him quiet on Saturday, with help from the rest of the Dynamo midfield. The 26-year-old joined Toronto from Roma in January in one of the winter’s most eye-catching transfers.
“His movement’s good, he’s all over the field. If we can limit his touches in the final third and keep him maybe facing his goal in their half, that’s going to be very important. He’s the engine of that midfield for them so it’s going to be a tough battle for all of us. If we can win that battle we have a good chance to win the game,” said Davis.
The 32-year-old had a major impact on the Independence Day match, scoring a late penalty kick to give the Dynamo a point. With Ricardo Clark starting for the first time since he suffered a concussion on April 23 and Boniek García also back from Brazil, head coach Dominic Kinnear was able to give starts to the key trio. With injured and absent players gradually returning, the aim now is for the team to establish a rhythm.
“One of my favorite comments that Dom says is ‘good players can always play with good players.' We have some great players on this team—so you’re not going to jump right back out and feel the flow that you did before, but it doesn’t take very long. We’ve had a good week of training so we’re excited to get back into these games and hopefully get the season rolling for us,” said Davis.
Kinnear echoed his captain: “It’s obviously going to take some time to get guys all thinking the same. Not too long I don’t think because they’re all good players. It’s the heart of the team and when those guys are playing and playing well it makes us a better team,” he said.
Clark is glad that Davis is available but cautioned that improving the team’s results is about attitude as well as the names on the teamsheet. “It was good to reconnect. He’s done good things on the ball, had a goal in the game so it was good to get him back," he said. "We’ve still got some tough games ahead and it’s going to take more than just playing together, it’s going to take drive, it’s going to take a lot of gutsy performances from now until the end of the season, so we’ve got to get that going.”
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.