Chris Odoi-Atsem gets first DC United start since cancer battle

Chris Odoi-Atsem - Przemyslaw Frankowski - DC United - Chicago Fire

Chris Odoi-Atsem has played 10 games to date in his MLS career. But the 11th is likely to have more meaning than those that came before.

The D.C. United defender started Wednesday's league match against the Chicago Fire and went 67 minutes in his first appearance in a competitive match for D.C. this season.

But the inclusion was special because Odoi-Atsem was making his MLS return after battling Hodgkin's Lymphoma for much of the last year. The 24-year-old was diagnosed in Oct. 2018, putting his career on hold to fight the cancer, and good news, after eight rounds of chemotherapy, he is in remission.

D.C. came back from a two-goal deficit to take a late lead, but Chicago tied the match at 3-3 in stoppage time on a goal from Francisco Calvo. 

Teammate Wayne Rooney paid tribute to Odoi-Atsem after the game.

"I think [his return is] fantastic," he told reporters. "You talk about character and courage, I think Chris has shown us all not just tonight. Everyone -- fans, all of you guys see him on the pitch but we've seen him put in all the hard work on the training pitch, in the gym. To get back to play, to do so so quick after his treatment is a testament to him as a person. I think he played really well and I'm sure the next few weeks he'll get more game time in and be a big player for us."