When you take a quick glance at his statistics for the season, it would be easy to conclude that D.C. United made the right choice in including Charlie Davies on the protection list for the 2011 MLS Expansion Draft. But the statistics don’t tell the whole story. The statistics don’t tell how hard this choice probably was for the United front office. The statistics don’t explain why this decision was a questionable one.
Over the final stretch of the season, United faced must-win game after must-win game, and Davies was on the bench more often than not. Davies earned only two starts during this six-game stretch, and played only 166 minutes. He was only on the field 31% of the time.
When Olsen needed goals the most, he looked for them elsewhere. He didn’t trust Davies to be able to find them. Davies wasn’t his top choice, and there are no signs to indicate that he’ll be Olsen’s top choice next year either.
Aside from that, Davies is only in MLS on a one-year loan that will expire during the offseason. The contractual sum that United would have to pay to Davies’ French club FC Sochaux is in the neighborhood of $1.3 Million. The league could attempt to negotiate that down, or could attempt to extend the loan for another season, but nothing is guaranteed. Sochaux will surely look at Davies’ statistics too and see this season as a major success for him. Don’t be surprised if they want him back. Or if they don’t want him back, then don’t be surprised if they test his value in the international trade market. If D.C. isn’t willing to pay the $1.3 Million, some Scandinavian club might.
So why did United even bother protecting Davies in the expansion draft then? If the chances are low that he’ll be playing with the club in 2012, why not give the protection slot to someone else?
Because Davies is still a valuable commodity. That’s why. Because 11 goals is 11 goals, no matter when or how he scored them. And because, as the United front office found out this season, Davies has more value than just his on-field production.
When the news first broke back in February that United had entered discussions with Sochaux and was bringing Davies in to training camp for a trial, I cynically wondered if the club would be able to resist signing the deal even if Davies was deemed to be less than fully fit. Because a 60% healthy Charlie Davies would still sell tickets. And he did. United’s attendance was up 5% from 2010, and a fair assumption would be that Davies definitely had something to do with that.
Of course bringing Davies to United was somewhat different from bringing David Beckham to the Los Angeles Galaxy. It wasn’t a monster deal that was based more around marketing potential than goal-scoring potential. But a part of me still believes that United’s front office had Davies’ marketability in mind when making the final decision to sign him.
Well if he increased attendance here in 2011, he can do it somewhere else in 2012.
That’s why protecting Davies makes sense. And that’s why trading him now makes even more sense.
Davies’ marketability is far higher in the United States than in any other league in the world. That’s one advantage that MLS has over other leagues that could convince them to overpay for Davies when negotiating with Sochaux. I can’t be alone in thinking that a team like Chivas USA would love to add Davies to their roster, not only for his goal production, but also to help increase ticket sales.
Reading (perhaps too heavily) into Olsen’s lineup choices at the end of the season, Davies doesn’t seem to be in United’s plans going forward. We can find those 11 goals elsewhere (from Casey Townsend perhaps?). How about Davies to Chivas USA straight up for Zarek Valentin?