May 31, 2014, 9:40 AM EST
With the possible exception of San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski, no veteran player did more to improve his stock during this World Cup cycle than Houston Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis. Swapped among three different MLS franchises in his first four professional seasons, the 14-year veteran has become a Most Valuable Player finalist in Major League Soccer, and since Jurgen Klinsmann took over as head coach with the U.S., Davis has also seen his international profile grow. The one time left-sided, dead ball specialist has gone from fodder for off-year Gold Cup squads to an all-around talent who will represent the U.S. in Brazil.
Short on both size and speed, Davis makes up for his physical limitations with industry, intelligence, and technique, part of the reason he’s been used as a late-match substitute for the U.S. His set piece delivery is unmatched within the U.S setup, part of the reason he led Major League Soccer in assists during the 2011 season.
Full name: Bradley Joseph Davis
Hometown: St. Charles, Missouri
Caps/goals: 15 caps, 0 goals
Club: Houston Dynamo
Best moment in a U.S. shirt: At the end of his first prolonged spell with the national team, Davis found himself standing over the kick that would give the U.S. the 2005 Gold Cup.
Going fourth in the final’s penalty kick shootout, Davis knew the 2-1 lead goalkeeper Kasey Keller ha built against Panama meant his kick could deliver the title.
“I just had a feeling that Kasey was going to make a save or they were going to miss and it was going to come down to me,” Davis told U.S. Soccer after the match. “I just knew I couldn’t second guess myself. I just needed to pick a corner and hit it with pace and that’s what I did.”
(Fast forward to 3:46 to see Davis’s winner.)
Starter or squad player at World Cup? With the first match of the U.S.’s send-off series providing some insight into Klinsmann’s thoughts, it looks like Davis is unlikely to resume the starting spot he won in the team’s last pre-camp friendly against Mexico in April. After coming on late in San Francisco, however, Davis again showed why he’s become a valuable member of the U.S.’s squad. The question isn’t whether he’ll get time in Brazil but how much.
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