Player of the Week

Player of the Week: CJ Sapong

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

In Sunday’s home opening win over New England Revolution, Philadelphia Union’s CJ Sapong had three shots.

Two of them went in.

It was, to quote Roland Alberg, “Magnificent.”

No one wanted the start Sapong had when he arrived in Philadelphia last season. After a facial injury in the season opener knocked him out for three games, Sapong had just worked his way back into the starting lineup when he was arrested for a DUI and missed more time undegoing league-mandated SABH treatment.

Not that there hadn’t been glimpses of what the Kansas City cast-off had to offer along the way. Wearing a protective facemask in his second appearance after his return from the facial fracture, Sapong scored the 86th minute equalizer in the 1-1 draw against NYCFC. Subbed on in his first appearance after completing the SABH program, Sapong scored the second goal in the Union’s first ever win at Red Bull Arena.

The ever-philosophical forward talked about how the hard start to the season had helped him better understand himself as a person, and he went on a scoring tear. Goals in four consecutive games in June were followed by three more in league play before the end of the season.

Throughout that time, and into the opening matches of the 2016 season, Sapong has been doing the dirty work that makes him the kind of forward defenders hate to cover. On Sunday he added two more items to their list of discontent.

The question before the home opener was whether the Union could build on the unexpected win in Columbus, or if they would return to their familiar yo-yo ways. The answer came sooner than most could have hoped.

In the 18th minute, Richie Marquez cut out a New England pass that was picked up by Fabinho, who advanced down the line before delivering a lovely cross to Sapong. Muscling his way around one defender, Sapong’s left-footed shot took a slight deflection to beat Bobby Shuttleworth at the near post.

Sapong scored again in the 33rd minute when a pass from Fabinho found Warren Creavalle. Advancing to the edge of the box just before the end line, Creavalle’s cutback pass hit Sapong who, momentarily forgotten by his markers, cooly slotted home again with his left foot. Later, Sapong drew the 78th minute foul that led to a penalty kick that Sebastien Le Toux uncharacteristically missed.

Before the start of the 2016 season, as many fans called for the Union to add a Designated Player striker: A star. Union head coach Jim Curtin made clear his belief in Sapong’s potential. Sapong himself was quoted in an article at MLSsoccer.com expressing his desire to score 20 goals (or some combination of goals and assists to reach 20).

It was a bold target — in a later article at Philly.com, Sapong said he had been misunderstood — but for many fans it was a welcome expression of desire and self-belief not heard from a Union player in a long time.

On Sunday, Sapong put in the kind of performance that backed up both his coach’s belief in him, as well as his own belief in himself. Time will tell if the Union bring in another attacker in the summer transfer window but if Sapong can continue to deliver like he did in the home opener, the wait won’t be colored by frustration and desperation.

And that’s why CJ Sapong is PSP’s Player of the Week.

4 Comments

  1. Old Soccer Coach says:

    The obvious choice, no disagreement.
    .
    Might the PSP editorial board discuss adopting the Hockey system of ***, **, & *?
    .
    Andre Blake’s domination of his box on corner kicks is taking me back to a mid 1960s St. joeseph’s University basketball player, Cliff “Pogo Stick” Anderson. We should be glad they don’t play hoops so much on the island.

  2. I think we have to acknowledge the guys who do all that work that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, and in that vein, I might’ve actually chosen Warren Creavalle this week. He had a fantastic game (including an assist, which does obviously show up on the stat sheet). But, hard to argue with the guy who scores a brace (and spends the rest of the game working his ass off). Kudos to CJ.

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