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Breaking: C.J. Sapong traded to Chicago Fire

Photo: Earl Gardner

With just a week before the season opener, Ernst Tanner isn’t done reshaping the Union roster.

The Union announced this morning that they’ve traded striker C.J. Sapong to Chicago for up to $450,000 in allocation money.

“With the strong state of our forward depth chart, we believe that this is the best move for both C.J. and for the Union at this time,” said sporting director Ernst Tanner.

Sapong, 30, departs as the second-highest goal scorer in Union history, behind only Sebastien Le Toux. The eight-year MLS veteran contributed 36 goals and 14 assists in Union colors.

“C.J. has produced many memorable moments in a Union shirt, and his efforts in the community have been admirable,” said Tanner.

The Athetic’s Kristian Dyer was first to report the trade.

In exchange for Sapong, the Union receive $200,000 in 2019 General Allocation Money (GAM) and $100,000 in 2020 Targeted Allocation Money (TAM). The Union also will get an additional $100,000 in GAM in either 2019 or 2020 depending on when the Fire are able to obtain GAM. If the additional GAM conveys in 2020, the Union will also receive a final $50,000 in 2020 TAM, contingent on Sapong hitting certain performance incentives in 2019.

In his four seasons with the Union, Sapong never made fewer than 27 appearances in a season, starting at least 29 games in each of the last three years.

Acquired from Sporting Kansas City in exchange for the tenth pick in the 2015 SuperDraft, Sapong’s Union career got off to an inauspicious start. He suffered a concussion and facial fracture in the 2015 season opener. The night before a match with Toronto FC in early May, Sapong was arrested and charged with DUI and reckless driving, which led to league-mandated inpatient treatment at a facility in California. (Sapong would ultimately be acquitted of the DUI charge after a bench trial in 2016.)

Despite the rough start, Sapong notched a then-career high nine goals in 2015, and added seven more in 2016. His breakthrough campaign came in 2017, where he set a club record by scoring 16 goals along with a career-high five assists.

Coming off such a strong season, Sapong was expected to be a big part of the Union’s 2018 campaign. Instead, he scuffled en route to a four-goal season. Despite manager Jim Curtin’s patience, Sapong ultimately lost his job as the starting striker to Cory Burke.

The Union signed Sapong to a new contract before the 2018 MLS season, which included a team option for 2020. He earned $525,000 last season.

The Union are left with five forwards competing for playing time in what is expected to be a two-striker system: Burke, Fafa Picault, Sergio Santos, David Accam, and Kacper Pryzbylko.

This is the second major sale of the Union’s offseason. In December, Tanner traded right back Keegan Rosenberry to the Colorado Rapids in exchange for up to $400,000 in allocation money.

The first team roster stands at 25 players heading into today’s final preseason match against Ottawa Fury. The season opener is in one week against Toronto FC at Talen Energy Stadium.


  1. So we got him for a draft pick soldhom for 400,000. (I don’t think he will make performance bonuses) we got one good season out of him and one season where he fell off a cliff and sunk is.

    He is kinda breaks even on the balance.

  2. Whatever his shortcomings, it was never from a lack of effort. A good deal to empty a slot from an overcrowded if not overly talented forward group and put some more MLS bucks in the bank. I wish him well in Chicago.

  3. A terrific personality on and off the field, who worked very hard ALL the time. I wish for all involved that his never ending hustle would have manufactured more goals. Like LeToux before him, this team’s progress quite obviously passed him by.
    Hopefully Chicago will mean more minutes, more goals, and more backflips for CJ.

  4. el Pachyderm says:

    an excelsior bit of excellent business.

  5. Best to CJ. I hope he finds his form in Chicago.

  6. Chris Gibbons says:

    He deserves an ovation when he comes back to Chester, for effort of course but for the frankly surprising quantity of goals he scored. Much of his Union career has a “what might have been” asterisk next to it and he still earned those rallies in spite of everything. Well wishes to him, and time for everyone to move on.

  7. He’s been my favorite player since day 1 of my Union fandom.

    I gave him my copy of The Red Book.

    Wish him the best in finding his magic again.

  8. Well wishes CJ! If hustle and heart could have turned into goals who knows how many he would have! Glad we got some funny money for him.

  9. John P. O'Donnell Jr. says:

    So in the end, a thirty year old striker might get 50K more than a 25 year old defenseman. Who would of thought that last year after the season ended?

  10. I am surprised that Chicago wanted him, given his contract. Seems like Tanner got decent value for him.

    He always seemed like a class guy. I particularly respected the way he came back from his DUI suspension. I wish him the best.

  11. He was definitely one of the hardest working players when he stepped onto the field. His hard work didn’t always translate to goals unfortunately. I think this move is best for both team and player. Best wishes to C.J..

  12. Good luck in Chicago, CJ. I am sorry to not see how you would have done with some help up front in a system that provided you some support. I agree wholeheartedly with the other notes here that saw the value of perpetual hustle, and I do believe that your effort led directly to a significant number of the goals that you scored. With some help up front, or an option that prevented the defenders from collapsing on you, there might have been many more goals. Best wishes, everywhere but against the boys, and Godspeed.

  13. OneManWolfpack says:

    Sad to see him go as a person, but as a player I don’t think he fit anymore… so getting value for him was a good move. I wish him the best

  14. Best for both parties. CJ always put his body on the line for the badge. Hoping he lands on his feet in Chitown. Well done, Ernst, well done.

  15. There’s a universe somewhere that has Le Toux and CJ playing together up top, scoring 20 goals a piece during a Union Cup run.

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