WASHINGTON -- The lower bowl of RFK Stadium turned into a white sea of "9s" Wednesday night as fans of the U.S. national team showed their support for forward Charlie Davies, who was in a hospital following an automobile accident that jeopardized his soccer career.
In the ninth minute of the World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica, thousands of fans held up white cards with a black No. 9 -- Davies' jersey number -- while other fans waved large banners that read "Get Well Charlie" and "(heart) CD."
Two smoke bombs also went off during the ninth minute in the section where many of the most ardent fans sit for soccer games -- the bouncing bleachers on the north side of the RFK field.
The cards were the idea of the Baltimore Brigade supporters group to show support for Davies, who remained in serious but stable condition Wednesday at Washington Hospital Center Medstar. Word spread throughout the day via Twitter and other Internet channels.
The tribute nearly had a perfect finish -- forward Conor Casey missed a scoring chance almost as the game clock struck 9:00.
U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati called the fans' gesture "extraordinary."
"The only way it could have been better is if Conor finishes, and the chance he had was on the 9-minute mark. It would have been true poetry," Gulati said. "Conor obviously didn't get that Twitter announcement or he would have finished that."
U.S. teammate Jozy Altidore used his Twitter account to urge fans to send e-mails to Davies: "Ok guys u can send ALL your well wishes 2 Charlie, email charliedavies9 at yahoo.com, they r printing all notes and bringing them 2 him! THX"
Altidore gave his own show of support for Davies, wearing a shirt with his teammate's No. 9 underneath his jersey during the game. He also enthusiastically spread the word about the fans' ninth-minute tribute.
"I was tweeting it all day," he said after the game. "I was happy that they did it. It realy touched a lot of us when we saw the 9s up there. I'm sure it's going to touch Charlie."
Davies broke two bones in his right leg and one in his left elbow, and he sustained a lacerated bladder and facial fractures in the accident early Tuesday, which claimed the life of a 22-year-old Maryland woman. Davies had several hours of surgery, and additional operations will be required to stabilize the elbow and possibly the facial fractures.
Davies will be hospitalized for at least a week and is expected to take six to 12 months to recover, all but ruling him out for the World Cup, which begins in South Africa on June 11.
U.S. coach Bob Bradley visited Davies in a hospital Wednesday to let him know the team was thinking of him. He said Davies was able to respond to doctors with simple gestures but due to medication had not yet spoken after surgery.
"Obviously it's a tough time," Bradley said. "Our players would have all been there with me but it's not possible at the moment."
U.S. Park Police Sgt. David Schlosser said reconstructing the one-vehicle accident will be complicated and the investigation will take several days at least. Davies and the driver, whom authorities have not publicly identified, survived the crash, which took place in the Virginia suburbs around 3:15 a.m.
The 23-year-old Davies was a strong candidate to start for the U.S. team at the World Cup. He played in 13 games, with nine starts, for the Americans this year, scoring three goals with three assists. He started in the 3-2 victory over Honduras on Saturday that clinched the U.S. team's World Cup berth.
His absence leaves Altidore, Brian Ching and Conor Casey as the Americans' top forwards. There will also be another roster spot open, with forwards such as Freddy Adu and Kenny Cooper possibly working into the mix.
Davies was also a member of last year's American Olympic team and currently plays for the French club Sochaux. Sochaux president Alexandre Lacombe told French Football's Web site that Davies was in intensive care and will be confined to a bed for about a month and a half.
"We are in shock," Lacombe said. "In life you have to know how to put things in perspective. Charlie was close to death and a young woman aged 22 lost her life. His season is over, but what's most important is for him to be out of danger."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press