Updated: Wednesday, January 24, 2018, 8:58 AM
David Accam’s speed, skill and scoring touch checked all the boxes when the Union were looking for a winger. There is little doubt that the Ghana native makes the attack better instantly. If he stays healthy and fills up box scores, he’ll be worth the $1.2 million transfer fee and Designated Player salary the Union are paying for him.
That is still to be proven, of course, and Union fans have earned their skepticism many times over. But if Accam’s 34 goals and 15 assists across three seasons in MLS — including 15 goals and eight assists last year — aren’t enough evidence, go ask a Union player who has played with him and a lot of other good wingers over the years.
Alejandro Bedoya was teammates with Accam at Swedish club Helsingborgs in 2012 and 2013. The two men have remained close.
“He made me a better player,” Accam said. “He’s someone who talks, who directs the play. … Having someone like Bedoya is a bonus, because you know you need to perform — he’ll put you in your place if you don’t.”
After Accam demanded a trade out of Chicago last summer, Bedoya put the bug in his ear during a late-season Union-Fire game that Philadelphia could be a good landing spot. It was humorous at the time, but it ended up coming true.
“He adds a whole new dimension to our team,” Bedoya said. “Like I told him in Helsingborgs: Just run in behind and I’ll look for you and just hit you the ball.”
With Accam on one wing and Fafa Picault on the other, the Union will have speed to burn on both sides of the field. That should help stretch opposing defenses, and give C.J. Sapong more space to work with up the middle.
“I’m not going to be the only one that defenders will be looking at,” Accam said. “Sapong, Fafa, they are really good players, one-on-one goal scorers. I’ll have enough space to also do my part.”
But Accam is more than just a run-and-shoot type. He can drop deep and pick out a good pass, too — as he did when the Fire beat the Union in Bridgeview, Ill., last October. A lofted pass by Accam from the midfield line started the sequence that led to the game-winning goal.
A few months after his trade demand, Accam backed off and signed a contract extension to stay in MLS through 2020. The Fire never announced the deal, but Union sporting director Earnie Stewart confirmed it Tuesday.
Because of the extension, the trade surprised Accam.
“I was in shock,” he said. “We spoke about my long-term future last summer, and I was committed to MLS. Some teams will talk to their players about offers they have [and] if they’re considering them or not.”
But if there was any doubt about his desire to be in Philadelphia, he put that to rest quickly. He said Jim Curtin and the Union’s front office won him over, and fans won his affection by greeting him at the airport Sunday afternoon.
“Philly, they respected the rules and followed the MLS rules to get me, so I’m happy to be here,” Accam said. “The welcome I got from [fans at] the airport, two days being here, I just love it. The culture, the philosophy here, everything.”