Training camp had just begun this winter, and Alhaji Kamara was poised for a big year.
In 2015, at age 21, he had posted a half-dozen goals during IFK Norrkoping's first Swedish championship in 23 years, raising his two-season total to 16. Last fall, he scored for Sierra Leone's national team in a World Cup qualifier.
The muscle-packed striker, from the hard-luck shadows of Freetown's international airport, was on the rise.
And then in February, as Norrkoping was preparing for a campaign that would include its first appearance in Europe's premier continental competition since 1963, medical test results arrived: Kamara was told he had a congenital heart defect.
Norrkoping shut him down. UEFA, the governing body that administers such tests for participation in the Champions League, wouldn't allow him to play.
"Is this true," Kamara recalled asking himself, "or am I dreaming?"
Less than three months later, the striker is back on the field, cleared by two U.S. cardiologists – one aligned with D.C. United, the other with MLS – who reviewed his case and tested him further.
Yes, they concluded, Kamara did have a deviation of the coronary artery, as the test results in Sweden had uncovered. Medical teams on either side of the Atlantic, however, had differing opinions of the severity of the condition and whether he could resume playing soccer.
Norrkoping released an ominous statement in February, saying Kamara was at a "high risk of sudden cardiac death during maximum exertion."
The American doctors disagreed.
"Under the condition he has, he's fit to play," Allen Taylor, United's team cardiologist and chief of cardiology at Washington's MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute, said in an interview.