Transfer News

Union acquire CJ Sapong in return for draft pick

Photo: Courtesy of MLS

The Philadelphia Union announced on Monday they have acquired forward CJ Sapong to Sporting Kansas City in return for a first round draft pick, No. 10 overall, in in the 2015 SuperDraft.

Union technical director Chris Albright said in a statement, “We are thrilled to add a player of CJ’s caliber to our roster. CJ is one of the most dynamic and versatile forwards in our league and he understands what it takes to win an MLS Championship. He will be an important part of our team moving forward.”

Sapong joined MLS in 2011 after being selected by Sporting Kansas City in the first round of the 2011 SuperDraft, the tenth pick overall. Making his professional debut against Chivas USA on March 11, 2011, he scored his first professional goal after only four minutes of play. He finished his first year with five goals and five assists and was named Rookie of the Year. In 2014, Sapong scored 2 goals for Kansas City in 811 minutes of play over 20 appearances, including seven starts. Overall, Sapong has scored 20 goals from 110 appearances with Kansas City, including 69 starts.

Sapong came to MLS from James Madison University, where he scored 37 goals with 20 assists over four seasons. In 2010, he made 11 appearances with Union PDL affiliate Reading United, scoring four goals.

Born in Manassas, Virginia, Sapong had two appearances with the US Men’s National Team in 2012, first as a 74th minute substitute in the 1-0 win over Venezuela on Jan. 21, 2012, and then as a 76th minute substitute in the 1-0 win over Panama on Jan. 25, 2012.

News of the Sapong deal was first reported by Sam McDowell of the Kansas City Star, and followed soon after by a report from’s Jonathan Tannenwald. Sporting Kansas City CEO Robb Heineman tweeted his best wishes to Sapong shortly after.


  1. “CJ is one of the most dynamic and versatile forwards in our league ”

    im never watching this team again

  2. We got another forward who can’t score, some allocation money, and lost our best young player and a number one draft choice. Meanwhile we have three goalkeepers and no center backs.

    But hey, the Union now have an official team applesauce, so not all is lost.

    • Don’t forget, no left back either.

    • I know this is Negadelphia and all, but… no center backs? Really? Because it seems to me that CB is one position that the Union might not have to worry about at all. They go five deep: Edu, Valdes, Berry, White, Marquez. Yes, you can question whether Berry, White, and/or Marquez are good enough. As depth though? Any of them are fine.
      This is a good move. Sapong fits nicely – he can likely slot into the CF position and he’s only 25.
      The Okugo move is a good move *if* he made it clear he wasn’t going to sign at all. In that situation, getting something for him is better than the alternative, even if “something” is MLS Funny Money.

      • I’d 100 % agree except for the fact that both Valdes and Edu are iffy for next season (even if Edu comes back, he may not agree to play CB – especially since Okugo is gone). If we lose both of them (and probably one CB in the expansion draft), then we’re left with only two CBs, and neither of them would be starting quality. But I guess for the time being at least we’re stacked at that position.

      • Edu likely moves to CDM. Berry hardly played due to injury. Valdes was a shadow of himself when he came back. White is still young and it shows. Don’t know anything about Marquez. Frankly, I’d start White and Valdes, but that leaves them very thin, and no natural left back.

        Sapong’s been in the league for four years and has a goal in five games strike rate. He’s not worth a first rounder, not by a longshot. So, not only didn’t we replace Okugo – could play anywhere from CB to number 10 – but we didn’t really get an upgrade over Brian Brown.

      • Sapong is surely an upgrade to Brian Brown, and rumor is the Union are looking at Kvist (I’d still rather have Okugo, but at least it’s something). I think White and Valdes would be a good pair: that’s if Valdes is still here next season. And Okugo was awesome, but he never played the # 10 role.
        I’m neutral on the events of today. Sapong for a first rounder is a good deal, so it almost offsets the Okugo situation.

      • He played a more attacking role towards the end of the season, but not as a pure 10, no. He could do it, tho. Hopefully, at Orlando he’ll be able to take on a more box to box role.

        I think the basis for concluding Sapong is an upgrade is because he was once a highly touted draft pick, not his recent form. He’s been in the league long enough to be judged on his MLS performances, not that he once got a speculative USMNT call up.

        I mean, striker’s a problem for the union, but these transactions leave us worse at CB/CDM and do nothing to solve the striker problem. Even if I were exaggerating about Brian Brown, he’s still no better than the third CF on the roster. I think whoever we took no. 1 would be better, whether CF, Left Back, Center Back, or to trade up for another GK.

      • Sapong is a solid pick-up. Especially for a mid to late first round draft pick. He was fairly productive as a CF, was then moved to the wing, and then lost out to Dwyer. Solid player. smart move.

      • Your point was that the Union have no center backs. You seem to reach that conclusion by: A) assuming Edu is playing d-mid rather than CB, despite what’s been said this off-season; B) that Valdes’s poor showing after his return wasn’t a combination of injury and exhaustion; C) that Berry’s injury last year somehow means he’s no longer a center back. (I guess he’s now a goalie? Forward?); D) That White – and Marquez for that matter – being young somehow means they’re not center backs.
        Really. CB is one of two positions – along with goalie – that they don’t need to do anything at all about this offseason. Trading the #10 pick in the draft for Sapong is a good move for this team, even if he just becomes depth. I’ll also argue that after you remove the emotion from it, the trade of Okugo was also a good move for the team.

      • I couldn’t agree more. The only complaint I think you can make with today’s moves is that if the club knew they weren’t going to resign Okugo in the offseason they should have looked to move him for more during the season.

  3. I remember the buzz over him as a rookie. Since then his minutes and goals have steadily decreased. Why should we be as excited as Albright? Seriously, that’s a real question. What am I missing?

  4. Good deal…The Union aren’t good at identifying players in the superdraft. KC are. They traded a degree of uncertainty for a degree of certainty.
    I don’t know if he is the answer at forward. But he is defiantly a smart addition to a position of need.

    • Defiantly? I think your spell check got it right because I see nothing definite about this.

      • Would “Probably” make you feel better? He is a clear upgrade over Brian Brown with a potential upside of a starting player.

      • Not really. Brown had 2 goals last season too and in far fewer minutes. If you’re referring to the experience level, I get that. I’m just not so sure from a quality stand point.

      • Forget the goals. Brian Brown is clearly not ready to be a contribute at this level. He did not combine well with anybody this season and seemed lost almost everytime he was out there. CJ Sapong is a definite upgrade

      • I’m no big Brown supporter. I’m just making a point. Forget the goals? Sorry, those aren’t comforting words to hear about a newly signed striker.

  5. Sapong was an absolute beast for me playing as the Union in FIFA 12. I’m sure that will translate to real-world success.

  6. Good to have Danny Mwanga back…

  7. Meh. Maybe I would have felt differently about this if we hadn’t just given away Okugo earlier.

  8. I recall this guy killing the Union, I think.

  9. Maybe the U will sign Darius Madison to a homegrown deal, they can get new young blood that way instead of the 1st round pick.

  10. Doesn’t anyone see that the Union ownership’s real hobby is collecting? First it was goalkeepers. Now they are working on former Rookie of the Year players. How many teams can say they have three of each of those?

    • We’ve also had a great run with #1 overall draft picks! Edu, Wenger & Blake currently. Adu & Mwanga formerly. Eskandarian on staff. Though two of the players were our picks.

  11. Sapong will hopefully get his form back by coming to Philly. Nobody knows how he will do this upcoming season. He could easily shine or easily disappoint, but it is clear to see that he is the type of forward that with the ability that this team needs and that I have been waiting to see on this team. We have never had a striker on this team that plays like him, possibly Mwanga and that is even a stretch. You cant just judge by record but you have to judge by how he looks and what he does on the pitch and it is hard to argue that he hasn’t been an impact for KC.

    • I agree. Reading what I can find, it looks like Sapong didn’t really fit what Vermes was looking for and lost out to Dwyer. He’s a central striker, not a winger, which means he could be just what Curtin is looking for in a replacement for Conor Casey.

  12. Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

    It’s been a while….. Jack Mac has better career #s then Sapong and people couldn’t wait to ship him out the door. But, we are thrilled to death to get Sapong? I don’t get it. Also, Curtin sealed Okugo’s refusal to come back during the US open cup final. He will be missed!

    • he is depth with a potential upside. word is that the Union are still looking for a #1 striker.
      Big difference.

    • Jack Mac couldn’t run past Carlos Valdez on Jack’s best day. He is a poacher and the Union need a speed forward to put up top for their counter attack style. Without service Jack Mac didn’t create many of his own chances.

      I’m still fine with Jack Mac trade and actually prefer the effort put forth by Wenger over Jack when I am at the games.

  13. Don’t get all the immediate negative reactions. It’s true Sapong doesn’t seem to be a guy at the moment who is a guarantee to light it up next year, but I think he’s a solid pick up and likely better than Brown or Casey. I think he makes the club better.

    It might be a bit speculative on the Union’s part — a gamble that a change of venue will help him achieve the potential many thought he had. We’ve seen guys break out before given a second chance in the league. No reason to rule it out already.

    Let’s give the Union a chance to see what other things get done this offseason before we burn it down. I’m happy, at least, to see the club active today. Means work is being done.

    • james Lockerbie says:

      Bravo, couldn’t agree more! Let’s watch and see what develops there are more drafts and the January transfer window.

  14. OneManWolfpack says:

    So much negativity. Wow. Sapong is a decent MLS player with the chance to get better. He’s 25. This is the kind of team we are (I don’t like it, but it is what it is) and this is the type of player we (our FO) just told us we will be going after.
    Let’s all take a breath before we kill the FO. The offseason literally just started.

  15. I seriously doubt anyone would be complaining about this if we hadn’t also traded away Amobi immediately prior. Let’s not carry the (I think justified) frustration from that deal to a low-risk, high-reward deal at a position of need.
    Draft picks, even in the first round, are an unknown quantity at best, and are likely to continue to decrease in overall value every year as academies, HGPs and imports (both DP and non-DP) continue to rise. We traded something that could ultimately turn out to be worthless into another experienced body for our forward line. Nothing at all to be upset about with this one in my opinion.

  16. Our draft history is sketchy, at best. We basically just drafted Sapong with the #10 pick and it addressed an area of need. You don’t have to be incredibly excited by this, but it is, at the very least, a decent move by adding a player with a comfort level in the league. He’ll get back to his natural CF spot. Maybe he’ll form a solid partnership with Wenger.
    However, he is most likely here for depth. If they can add a DP Striker during the January window, CJ is a great piece of depth and flexibility on the roster.

    As far as Amobi, he wasn’t staying. They would have had to offer him Michael Bradley-type money to keep him, and that wasn’t happening. They managed to get something for him, as opposed to letting him walk to Europe and get nothing in return. I’m sad to see him go, but that $100K+ of allocation money can help to pay down the salary of the January DP Striker (I’m just going on blind faith that is going to happen – don’t crush my dreams yet).

  17. I’m surprised more people aren’t pleased with the Sapong deal. It’s not like we traded a top 5 pick for him. If we stay with the 4-2-3-1 formation, Sapong can play wide left, wide right or central striker. He’s big, strong and fast and is unlike any option that we currently have on the team. Plus he’s only 25 years-old and still has a lot of upside IMO.

    • The Sapong deal would be fine if it occurred in a vacuum. It’s only a problem when it is compared to how bad the Okugo deal was.

      Okugo was prob the top asset on a team with precious few of them, and it seems like we gave him away. Why do we destroy the value of anyone on this team????

      • An out of contract player doesn’t have a ton of value, especially since Okugo could still sign somewhere in Europe leaving Orlando with only his rights if he returns. If the Union wanted to get more out of Okugo they should have moved him during the season. I still believe that Nogueira was unquestionably our best D mid on our roster this year and I hope that this means he gets to play there all season now.

      • OneManWolfpack says:


      • Okugo signed with Orlando as part of the deal, per Tannenwald.

  18. Steve OMalley says:

    Why isnt anyone talking about kvist

    • Because all we have is a report that the U are interested. Once a signing is rumored, talk about him will pick up.
      That, plus everyone is all up in arms about Okugo.

    • Yea Kvist could be a good pick up as well because we definitely need a CDM since I believe Edu will be one of our center backs. Honestly any player from the EPL would probably fit our team at this point haha.I haven’t found much video of Kvist. If you know of any send it my way.

  19. I actually like the CJ Sapong deal as a depth move. Sporting fell in love with Dwyer. We’ve seen enough of that around here. Sapong needs a change of scenery and hopefully will regain his scoring touch and also rekindle the chemistry he had with Wenger. I hope the Union still bring in a real name striker. Leftback is still a huge hole that needs to be filled. Curtin has a lot of options at CB. I’m still pissed about Okugo. It’s just the begining so I’m waiting to see what unfolds next.

  20. Steve OMalley says:

    I agree with you LCBline and we are one if few teams with a dp spot

  21. Not a bad pick-up, the dudes pace alone presents the opposition with problems. Saw many a match down at PPL where we had to adjust tactically just because he was out on the pitch. He can be a game-changer when playing his best.

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