Shortly after he was made the tenth overall selection in the 2011 MLS Super Draft, I had the chance to talk to the newest member of Sporting Kansas City - forward CJ Sapong - and get his thoughts on a few things.
I came away rather impressed by a guy looking to prove his nay-sayers wrong.
The Daily Wiz: CJ, first of all, thanks for the time and congratulations on being a first round pick in the MLS draft. Could you go ahead and talk about some of the things that you already know about Sporting KC?
Well, the club I I know first of all, the staff is really great. The little time that I've been out here since getting picked, I'm feeling great vibes and I feel so comfortable right now.
At the combine, they were the very first team I met with and from the get-go, the vibes were very strong. It was just a great interview. It wasn't like the normal interview per se. I was able to be myself. The questions they asked me were just questions that I felt were really comfortable.
One of the questions they asked me was "what was the greatest goal I've scored in my career," and something like that, me being a forward, I just rolled over. I kind of went off on a little tangent, but I think it kind of spoke to the face of how comfortable I was with them from the get-go.
It was the start of a great, great relationship, and I'm looking forward to working hard and being an impact player.
TDW: So, you said you met with them first and that the interview went really well; did you have any idea that you would be taken either, one, by Kansas City, or two, in the first round? Because, it was a bit of a shock to the "experts."
No, not at all. Coming from James Madison University, a lesser know school and I didn't get to play in any NCAA tournament games or postseason play, so I didn't think a lot of scouts had seen my play, and when I finally got my invite [to the combine], I knew I really had a lot to prove.
Getting to the combine, I just tried to work as hard as I could and show that I was very passionate about the game; I play with a chip on my shoulder, and I think they saw that and they liked it. Also, with our interview, I think they felt the same connection that I felt. And, ultimately, I think that's what moved me into the first round.
TDW: You say you play with a chip on your shoulder, so what do you think are the other strengths of your game?
My strength on the ball. I can provide an option up top that can hold the ball up and allow other players to get into the attack. My explosiveness and my speed.
It's kind of funny because my legs are kind of heavy from training so hard before the combine, so I didn't really feel I was at top speed, but after a couple days of rest, I'm sure I'll get back up there and I'll be able to continue to show flashes of what they saw of me at the combine.
TDW: If those are your strengths, what are a couple of things you feel you need to improve on?
Maaaaaaaan, I'm extremely critical about myself, so I need to improve on every part of my game.
First and foremost, I need to improve on patience; my patience up top. Being so in love with the sport, I just love when the ball is at my feet, so I kind of tend to drift towards the ball a little early, giving defenders an opportunity to stay on me, so I need to be a little more patient and wait for the very, very last second to check to the ball. That's just going to open up more space for me for me to showcase my speed and get by defenders.
TDW: KC plays a high-pressure 4-3-3 system; how do you think your game will fit into that formation?
That's just, that's me right there, because I'm going to work both sides of the ball as hard as possible. 4-3-3 is a great formation.
You have to make sure if you're a wide option that you're going to work hard. They have to work hard for it to work. I can see me at any position up top in a 4-3-3. I can play the striker role where I'm holding the ball in and getting other people involved. I can play out wide, too, getting up and down that flank, getting balls in the box and taking defenders on.
I feel like that's just a great, great formation that suits my playing style very well and I'm very excited.
TDW: Can you confirm that @BigAfrika88 on Twitter is, in fact, you?
Yeah. Yeah, that's me.
TDW: Okay, so you're a Manchester United fan, judging by your Twitter picture?
TDW: Good to hear. I am the same myself. Did you happen to see when Man United was here in Kansas City this year, and are you a little bit sad that you missed out on an opportunity to play that team by just a year?
I actually ended up watching that whole game, when they won it. I liked how KC played in that game. With players like Teal (Bunbury), he was causing problems for their backline.
I pray that I'll be able to step on the field against another good team like that; a big team from overseas and get to have a little fun. It is a business and you have to perform, but I feel like opportunities like that are just once in a lifetime and if it happens to fall to me, I'll be sure to make the most out of it.
One thing that I can't convey through writing, CJ's tone, says a lot about how much he loves the game. I'm fairly sure I was around tenth on a line of phone interviews, and he had the same excitement in his voice that you would imagine in a player's first interview after being drafted.
Say what you will about the reach of a pick here, and it very well could still be, but CJ couldn't be more excited to be in the league now, and like he said, I have a feeling he's going to work really hard.