Sucka Free Soccer: Charlie Divies

Davies in the increasingly rare "not flopping" position

This past weekend I spent my Saturday night as any 22-year-old city-dwelling male would, sitting on my couch alone and watching ludicrous amounts of mediocre soccer. After spending a couple of hours as the world’s biggest Guatemala fan outside of Guatemala City, I settled in for a nightcap of MLS drama. I found myself watching Real Salt Lake close out a victory against the hated DC United. My formative years are scarred by flashbacks of DC United pummeling my beloved Metros in every heart-wrenching, soul-crushing way possible. Anytime I can watch Ben Olsen lead his boys further into obscurity it is must see T.V. Unfortunately, my good times, and those of the fine people at Rio Tinto Stadium, were ruined by a sight that is becoming increasingly common: Charlie Davies flopping his way to an undeserved call.

As I watched an untouched Davies fly into the air as though he had stepped on a land mine, I was filled with anger and disappointment. I’m not sure what’s more embarrassing, that a grown man would so flagrantly feign a foul, that a professional referee would reward it with a penalty or that the crack commentating duo of Dave Johnson and Thomas Rongen could proclaim that it was a”50-50” call with unabashed homerism. Perhaps Johnson meant 50% depressing and 50% infuriating. I guess it’s not exactly shocking coming from the microphone maestro who coined the profound goal call “It’s in the Net!…It’s in the Net!…It’s in the Net!”

Davies, of course, converted the goal for his seventh score of the season, keeping himself in the golden boot hunt. Of Davies’ seven goals, 4 come from penalties; a continuation of the proud DC tradition started by Jaime Moreno, who scored 131 of his 133 MLS goals from the penalty spot. (I think that’s accurate, but we don’t have fact-checkers here at Empire of Soccer, oh well).

For Davies flopping has become a new tactic, acting worthy of a day time Emmy to compliment his blazing speed. Against the Galaxy in April, Davies similarly cheated his way to draw with an 89th minute dive that was again rewarded with a penalty. Against New York, Davies unable to actually get past the Red Bull defense, unleashed his histrionics nearly every time he got in the Red Bulls end of the field.

However despicable, diving is part of the modern game of soccer. In fact many people defend the practice as finding any way to win. Another excuse is saying the onus is on referees to snuff out diving rather than on the players to police themselves. But in the words fictional badass Omar Little, “A man’s gotta have a code” and you would think self respect would outweigh cheating your way to a 1-1 draw. Still players all over the world do it. Jermaine Jones solidified a USA victory over Jamaica getting a Jamaican defender sent off on a blatant dive.

So if diving is a pervasive part of the game, then why does Davies’ use of the tactic bother me so much?

Davies arrival on the United States National team scene was incredibly fun to watch for all US fans. For me, it was even more exciting. A young player scoring in Azteca with confidence and doing his signature stanky leg celebration with Jozy was a welcome addition. Chuck Deezy with serious soccer skills, twitter acumen and allusions to relevant cultural trends was going to be the star that represented my generation.

When he was in a tragic car accident, I, like all US fans, was devastated. When it became clear he was going to be ok, the criticism slowly started to seep in. After all he was breaking curfew to party. However, I didn’t waver in my defense. In your early twenties nearly everyone knows someone who has paid dearly for one lapse in judgment like Davies. I could easily see myself in that horrible situation and was not about to judge Charlie, especially since he had to live through it in such a public way.

Then he joined DC United. As a New York fan, hating DC is only slightly less important than cheering for New York. I have nothing but disdain for those that don the evil, appropriately colored, black shirt. However, I still couldn’t help but cheer for Davies, even if he called the crumbling heap that is RFK home.

So when I sat on Saturday and watched someone I had idolized, cheered for, prayed for and genuinely cared about, confirm his reputation as a cheater it affected me more than the other countless diving hacks in the world of soccer. Davies has made the full heel turn from a player I love to a player I love to hate. It’s not a rational reaction to feel a personal slight from someone who has no idea I exist, but being a fan is probably the most irrational thing a human can do without being put on medication. So yes, I feel like it’s a personal slight from Charlie Davies.

Luckily the season is less than half over Charlie, there’s plenty of time to nip this bad habit in bud. Stop the diving and come back to the good side. I, like many others, am waiting to cheer you on again.

  • Katie

    Mike Vallo is a fox.

  • Tom C.

    Great post Mike – It’s sad to see the current state of affairs, I would really like to see this addressed via rule change (or NFL style, renewed emphasis).

    As for Davies, I wrote him off a long time ago.

  • cubillas

    Iagree with your opinion and although it’s very challenging MLS should find a way to nip this in the bud. Great writing.

  • Good post and a great insight into the way most of us feel about Charlie Davies. I’m 26 and related to almost everything you said and have felt the same thing. Great read, thanks.

  • qax

    Great post…this is the first time I’ve visited your blog but I may just have to become a regular.
    – a fellow Saturday night internet-streaming MLS fan…

  • Darren

    Great post! I was sitting right in front watching this and it was terrible. The line judge was right there and should have stepped up. The games should be decided by the players, not the refs.