During David Accam’s first four seasons in MLS, his father, Michael, never got to see him play soccer in person. This was to be the year when it finally happened.
Accam revealed after Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Columbus Crew at Talen Energy Stadium that his father died a few days ago after battling cancer.
He first mentioned it in a postgame interview on the Union’s TV broadcast, then reflected at greater length a few minutes later in a conversation with reporters in the locker room.
“He just always told me to enjoy myself,” Accam said. “He didn’t really get involved in my training or anything, just [said] have fun and enjoy myself. He wasn’t a coach. He was just an accountant, so he didn’t really know much about soccer.”
Michael was healthy enough a few months ago to attend David’s wedding in Cape Coast, Ghana, two hours southwest of David’s hometown of Accra.
“I knew he was struggling a little bit, but we did everything,” Accam said. “He felt really good in the last three weeks, and, just last week, I woke up and he wasn’t around."
Accam said the Union asked him whether he wanted to go home for the funeral, but he declined.
“I told them this is the only thing that gives me joy, because it’s tough going home,” he said.
Then came Saturday night. With the Union’s roster severely depleted, Accam got to make his first start of the season. Half an hour in, he scored his first goal since last July and just his third overall for the team.
After the ball rolled past Columbus goalkeeper Joe Bendik — perhaps with a little divine intervention — Accam pointed to the sky, then fell to his knees on the grass. Ten minutes later, he scored again, helping lift the Union to their first win of the season.
“Everything just came out,” Accam said. “I felt emotional — I just knew my dad was watching this game. Wherever he is, he was watching this game.”
After fighting through a long-term sports hernia injury last year, and now coping with his father’s death, Accam had every right to let loose.
“I left everything on the field," he said. “I put my emotions [out there] and everything. I wanted to give the club that. They’ve given me a chance, and they’ve been patient with me with all these injuries and what happened last year."
Accam said before the season that he was at full health, but he knew he was going to have to prove it to a fan base that grew skeptical amid last year’s struggles. On Saturday night, he proved himself right. A further reward came Monday when he was named MLS Player of the Week in a vote of media and fans.
“Everything is in the past now,” he said. “I feel much, much better than I was last year. I can sprint with less or no pain, and I feel more flexible and loose in the hips.”
It will come as no surprise if he plays more often now, and if he keeps scoring.