It's been a long road to this moment for Chris Odoi-Atsem.
The D.C. United right back returned to play in 2019 after battling Hodgkins Lymphoma for much of the previous year, enduring multiple rounds of chemotherapy. He wound up making a return to the field in 2019 for a total of three appearances, before working his way back into the club's rotation in 2020 with six starts and 13 appearances leading up to the club's Week 19 road matchup against FC Cincinnati.
Odoi-Atsem found himself in the starting lineup again and played the hero role in the contest, scoring the game-winning goal in the 78th minute to give his team a 2-1 victory.
The rebound strike was also Odoi-Atsem's first career league goal, a milestone moment that interim head coach Chad Ashton said was made all the more special given what Odoi-Atsem went through to get back to the field.
"It's so awesome," Ashton said. "He's been through a lot and to continue to just work and work and work, it's just such a credit to him and I'm so happy for him. He's well-deserving to get that."
Speaking with reporters after the match Odoi-Atsem said he hadn't quite taken it all in yet, but added that his appreciation for the moment was certainly magnified. Goal aside, the 26-year-old had an active night from his right back spot, ranging forward for a couple more dangerous opportunities and helping the D.C. defense close out the victory.
"I'll be able to think about it and dwell on it more a little bit later," Odoi-Atsem said. "That's all I want to do, is just help the team, that's all I ever wanted to do when I was out. Just to be able to be healthy and help the team on the field and get a win, that's everything to me."