A member of Ghana's "Golden Generation," Phillip "Nana" Gyau moved to the United States in the late 1960s, and his family eventually came with him. He grew up in Wheaton, and his soccer upbringing was typically American: high school at Gwynn Park, college at Howard, and a start with local Washington teams.
He moved to the Maryland Bays, where he played for two seasons, ahead of their playoff-less 1989 season, and the club underwent a series of changes for 1990 — hiring Caringi, a former assistant, as its new head coach and moving from UMBC to Cedar Lane Park in Columbia.
"That's where we got the most support," Gyau said. "We never lost there."
And as the Bays raised their profile, so, too, did Gyau, who played in several friendlies leading up to the 1990 World Cup, the United States' first appearance at the tournament in 40 years.
In the end, he became one of the final players left off the U.S. roster.
"Phillip was extremely fast, probably one of the fastest players who played in his time," Caringi said. "I'm pretty sure [getting cut] took a lot out of [Gyau], because there weren't many players that were better than him."
But the striker and his team nonetheless finished the season strong: With Gyau compiling 11 goals and six assists to claim the American Professional Soccer League's Most Valuable Player award, the Bays went on to beat national team star Eric Wynalda and San Francisco for the short-lived franchise's only championship.
But as Caringi left to take the top job at UMBC after that 1990 season, Gyau spent the league's offseason in Europe — becoming the first American to play first-division Belgian soccer.
He came back to Columbia in June 1991, and Maryland, which at one point had run an 18-game winning streak, was upset in the first round of the playoffs. The cash-strapped Bays sank shortly thereafter, and Gyau moved on.
In June 1994, he returned, signing with the Baltimore Spirit (now the Blast) of the indoor National Professional Soccer League. But for a player known for his pace, Gyau "was slow in making the transition to indoor soccer," The Baltimore Sun wrote. He played just one game before being released Nov. 9.
Major League Soccer's inaugural season was set for 1996, but an aging Gyau took a different path, serving as a player, captain and coach for the U.S. beach soccer national team from Brazil to Monaco for nearly a decade. In 2005, he represented the United States in the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
Still, through all his years of globe-trotting, he always had a special place in his heart for the Bays.
"It was a great experience. To this day, we still keep in touch," Gyau said. "When I went into the Maryland Soccer Hall of Fame, they all came."