CHESTER, PA– When Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya first caught wind of David Accam at Helsingborgs, he knew how incredible the Ghanaian winger’s talent was.
“When I first played with him I was in Sweden and he had just come to the club and he came up from a lower tier team and he was still very raw. The first thing you notice is his explosiveness,” Bedoya told SBI. “He’s lightning quick. He’s going to bring a whole new dimension to this team which I think the fans will love and guys like myself will love too because he’s a threat to any team.”
As Union head coach Jim Curtin sat to the right of the newest Union player on Tuesday, he effused similar remarks about the polished 27-year-old that Bedoya used when talking about the raw talent of a younger Accam.
“David brings an element to our team that is new,” Curtin said during Accam’s introductory press conference on Tuesday. “When he’s on the ball, he has the ability to go one-on-one, I think that’s part of his game. What people don’t recognize is the composure he has in possession, he’s comfortable coming inside. He can change things up. He can pop up on either side of the field and his movement is very clever. He makes everyone’s job easier.”
No matter who you talk to around the team, the mood has drastically changed since the acquisition of Accam for a total of $1.2 million in allocation money on Friday.
The winger, who recorded a career high 14 goals and eight assists with the Chicago Fire in 2017, is one of the difference makers the Union needed. In Accam, the Union have a player that has potential to wreak havoc in a plethora of roles in the 4-2-3-1 formation.
First of all, the player himself has a level of comfort with his new team because of his familiarity with Bedoya and the pressing style of the 4-2-3-1 that will exploit his strengths.
“Being wide and trying to isolate players one-on-one (are some of my best qualities) so I think I will fit in perfectly in this system,” Accam said. “Hopefully I will get a chance and be one-on-one every time.”
There’s also a level of comfort coming from Curtin and sporting director Earnie Stewart, who don’t have to concern themselves with a new player getting acclimated to MLS while learning a new system.
“There’s a lot of little variables that go into our league that make it complicated and tricky and he’s been now for multiple years a top attacking player on the field with the statistics that back it up with all the metrics that we use to dictate what is a Philadelphia Union player,” Curtin said.
When the Union take to the field for the first time in 2018 on March 3 against the New England Revolution at Talen Energy Stadium, Accam is expected to line up in a front four that includes fellow winger Fafa Picault and forward C.J. Sapong, who is coming off a 16-goal season.
The intertwining of the three, as well as a new No. 10 which Stewart hinted at on Tuesday, be a nightmare for opposing defenses as long as it’s done properly.
Unlike past players the Union have had on the wing, Accam can actually cut inside, put a center back under pressure and create a mismatch, which will either lead to a scoring opportunity or a key pass in the final third to a teammate.
“The fluidity he brings, the sophistication, the way he moves between the center backs, not just be always wide, to come inside and create different problems, is a bonus and I think it adds to the flexibility of our group,” Curtin said. “You could see him pop up on either side of the field or underneath C.J. creating problems.”
Of course the qualities of the potential No. 10 acquisition changes the approach a bit, but with the current squad the Union have, Accam’s best assets need to be on display all over the final third, not just on one wing where defenses will lock in on him and make Picault, whose quality in the final third was lacking some punch in 2017, beat them.
Accam’s elusive speed, if brought inside from the wing, will free up Sapong, who will continue to receive a battle from the top center back on each team he faces. By unlocking Sapong from a battering ram battle, Accam could actually help the striker record more goals than he did a year ago with little versatility in the final third.
The 27-year-old also adds an element to the press that Picault showed on a few occasions a year ago. Speed and technical ability can put defenders under pressure, no matter how much experience they have. If the Union can put defenses under duress from two angles on the wing and suck teams inside to deal with Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin, it could easily create turnovers and put goals in the back of the net in odd-man rushes toward goal.
“In most of the games, we’ve always been in a position to get a result and that did not happen for certain reasons, but it also had a lot to do with players like David himself,” Stewart said. “When you’re in these games that are 1-0 and 0-0, you can score the 2-0 or the goal that will help you consolidate points to get you into the playoffs.”
By all accounts, Accam checks every single box the Union were looking for in a difference maker. After finishing with 42 points in the first seasons of Union 2.0, improvement is needed and it will come with the Ghanaian winger roaming the field.