Commentary / Union

It’s not too late for David Accam

Photo by Paul Rudderow

A lot of Philadelphia Union supporters were critical of David Accam last season. Frankly, they had every right to be. One goal in 23 Major League Soccer appearances? One goal and no assists? Seriously?

He wasn’t just a chance signing or a cheap alternative — Accam was brought in for $1.2 million in allocation money to be the guy in 2018. He was coming off a staggering season of 14 goals and 8 assists with Chicago and he was deemed one of the better players in MLS. Finally, the Union have a star, except the star scored one goal all season.

I was openly critical of him, too. I called him a ghost off the bench and didn’t think twice about it. He often did absolutely nothing and that was a fact. He made the Union look foolish after a while, and my season review of the debacle turned into one big “Eh, who knows?” When he started this season on the bench behind Fafa Picault and Cory Burke, I was ready to flat-out call him a bust. What a total waste of money for a guy that hardly plays and never makes an impact. He had one breakout year and it won’t happen again. Past it.

But one thing I did predict in that season review was that Accam would get a second chance. As a designated player, he had to. No one really had any idea when it would come but, man, did he make the most of it. Watching him torch Columbus last week and bury Cincinnati this past Saturday was startling. It was utterly unexpected and welcoming at the same time. Those performances made me think.

What if he’s back?

Better yet, what if he’s fully healthy? The sports hernia injury that was an oddly fitting end to his 2018 was flat-out weird. Questions of Chicago knowing about the injury prior to the deal emerged and equally pressing questions from the fans emerged. What gives? Why wasn’t it publicized and why wasn’t it treated properly?

Fast forward to 2019 and you have to wonder just how serious and just how limiting that injury was. A sports hernia isn’t the most damaging of soccer injuries, but it can still be a six-week setback if serious. It is also the type of thing that can linger and not fully heal if strained repeatedly. Maybe it was bothering him for a vast majority of the season and maybe it led directly to riding the bench.

If you think about it, that would really be the best case scenario. Accam was injured, so he wasn’t performing. Now he’s healthy and he’s performing. A simple explanation that is much more of a fact than it is an excuse. It would eliminate any “overrated,” “one hit wonder,” or “waste of money” talk. Alternatively, maybe he’s getting older and simply isn’t as pacy as he used to be. Maybe a center forward role suits him much better at this point in his career.

Ultimately, Accam can make sure none of it really matters. If he continues on this current pace, Union supporters will quickly forget about the 2018 season. If he keeps splashing goals and dishing assists, Jay Sugarman and company can say “See, we knew what we were buying.” These past couple of matches, Accam has looked nothing like what we saw last season. He is beginning to mimic his impressive 2017 campaign and let’s be clear: He’s not tapping in crosses or pushing in penalties here.

His goals have been absolutely top class. A deft finish to the near post, a pinpoint strike into the panel, and a touch-and-go dribble show with another clean finish — throw in an assist for good measure. He has all but solidified a starting spot going forward and he is clearly capable of being a total difference maker. A mediocre forward doesn’t put up 14 goals and 8 assists in a season. That’s something an All-Star does.

Only time will tell us if Accam can put together another campaign like that, but the reality is the opportunity is there. He has created it in two stellar matches and credit to him for that. If he can be even somewhat consistent with production, it will go a long way on this team. If he can erase the question mark that has been looming in the Union’s final third for far too long, he can win the fans over and build on his career. He’s not young anymore, but he’s not old either.

The David Accam story doesn’t have to be over yet. He can be a star that is generally associated with a designated player and he can go down as a Union great. On the one hand, he may not have gotten a fair enough chance in 2018. On the other hand, 2019 is a new year and a new chance.

It’s not too late.

7 Comments

  1. Was making these comments last year.
    .
    I never understood the logic behind the arguments that 1) Sapong’s 16 goal season was a fluke because he never previously scored in double digits in his career and 2) Accam was a bust because he only had 1 goal after seasons scoring 10, 9, and 14 times his previous 3 seasons.
    .
    If something good out of character happens it is a fluke and if something bad happens out of character then it is forever. #longlivenegadelphia

  2. Last year, every time Accam had the ball he tried to fast straight through defenders. This worked exactly once, in stoppage time at Chicago. I’d never really watched Accam’s play in detail before last year, so I assumed that was all he could do, and his being fast and that’s it didn’t fit with the possession based style the Union were playing last year.
    .
    Taking a look at his goal at Cincy, and he looks like a completely different player. Showing control and moving laterally to make defenders miss.
    .
    It sure seems like 2018 Accam was injury limited. 2019 Accam is not.

    • i’ve seen it in hockey a lot. a player will drop production and it’s typically playing injured. it’s a multi-faceted problem: player doesn’t want to lose minutes/undergo testing/surgery; convince themselves they can play through it. team coaches, doctors, and trainers may not be attuned to the player’s performance being injury-related. these days, with concussion protocol being the most visible, you think a player would be shut down earlier, for their own good and the team. it’s worrying that Accam went almost a full season.

      • I’ve seen sports hernia’s linger in hockey. Whether it be as you said, a player keeping and injury to himself, trainers not knowing a player or even a misdiagnosis. To me it seems it took a player usually a full year almost to get complete confidence back and playing like before.
        .
        I have no doubt that Accam was affected by the hernia last year. If it was treated correctly and given time to heal, he had a great opportunity to return to form.

  3. HopkinsMD says:

    I also wonder about the mental toll his father’s illness battle was having on him.

    • It wasn’t until the news broke of the elder Titi’s death that I put that together. You are absolutely correct. It must be difficult to be a hemisphere away while your father is going through that.

      • It’s a tough thing to heal from. I’ve had 2 hernias and the road back was hard. Now add his Father’s illness to the mental stress. Good to see he’s making the most of his appearances!

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