Davies, Onyewu on mend for U.S.
But their World Cup status remains up in the air, says coach Bradley
If all goes well, U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley will be able to call on emerging striker Charlie Davies and veteran defender Oguchi Onyewu for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
But that's a very big '"if."
The World Cup dreams of Davies and Onyewu lie in tatters after both players recently suffered major injuries that could rule them out for next year's tournament in South Africa.
A 23-year-old striker with French club Sochaux, Davies broke several bones, including two in his right leg, and sustained a lacerated bladder and multiple facial injuries after a serious car accident on Oct. 13.
Davies, a passenger in the car, was released from Washington Hospital Center after a month, having spent time in the intensive-care unit and undergoing a series of operations. He was lucky to be alive. A 22-year-old woman in the car with Davies died as a result of injuries from the crash.
Onyewu, 27, ruptured a patellar tendon in his left knee during a World Cup qualifying game against Costa Rica in Washington, D.C, the day after Davies's car crash.
The initial prognosis was that Davies would miss six to 12 months, but the American prospect told ESPN earlier this month that he expects to be running by March and would be fit for World Cup play in June.
'One step at a time'
While Bradley revealed Davies is "making good progress" during rehabilitation, he said it's too early to determine if the young star will be on the plane to South Africa.
"Coming back from an accident like that is difficult and you go one step at a time. In the early stages, all of the news has been positive and so we're excited about that," Bradley told CBCSports.ca.
"As he moves himself along, we'll continue to get information at each stage, which will give us a better sense of as what the prospects are for next June."
Onyewu, meanwhile, is on the road to recovery, and expected to return to training with Italian outfit AC Milan early in 2010.
After splitting the previous five years between Newcastle United in England and Belgian side Standard Liege, Onyewu signed with Milan in July, but appeared in just one competitive match for the Rossoneri before getting hurt.
"Onyewu is making very good progress," said Bradley. "Obviously it's a little bit easier to know the timetable coming back from an injury like that.
"Assuming that there's no unexpected developments along the way, we have the confidence that Guch will be back in training by March, and hopefully getting some games, and the confidence will return so he'll be ready to go for South Africa."
The injuries to both Davies and Onyewu couldn't have come at a worse time.
Davies was starting to come into his own in France, scoring two goals in six games for Sochaux, the team he signed with during the summer after spending two years with Swedish club Hammarby.
He was also putting in solid performances for the U.S. national team and was expected to feature prominently for the American side at the World Cup.
"Charlie had really emerged as a young forward who had physical abilities as his starting point: speed, balance and quickness," Bradley explained.
"He made a move to Sweden first coming out of college. It took him a full year to get adjusted, but he had a very good second year and it led to a transfer to France, and with our national team we felt that he was starting to show people that he was improving and maturing.
"It's always nice when you see a young player catching on and taking advantage of his opportunities."
Rave reviews at Confederations Cup
Onyewu was coming off an impressive run for the U.S. at FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa this summer, earning rave reviews for his mature and poised play and drawing the attention of AC Milan who signed him to a three-year deal.
His lengthy absence will not only mean Onyewu will have a fight on his hands to crack Milan's roster, but also that his World Cup chances lie in the balance.
"Any time a player makes a move to a very big club, the challenge of getting on the field is a big one. In Guch's case, early on, he was learning the ropes there," Bradley said.
"He was just starting to feel confident and so the injury obviously sets him back. But the support that AC Milan has shown him has been very helpful in keeping his mentality right. Once he's a little further along in the rehab process, he will hopefully find a way back onto the field."