I been thinking a great deal lately about disappointment. Oddly enough, I am not disappointed because life has been failing to meet my expectations, but rather that everything lately has been exactly as I expected but rather depressing. One of my favorite shows Chuck ended where it began, spending two hours tearing our heart out and then five minutes hastily shoving it back into our chest. Without revealing too much my favorite video game series Mass Effect released it's final chapter, the ending* was inevitable but left you feeling incredibly depressed. Then, like the rest of you I spent my whole winter anticipating this day and because I had one number wrong in my phone found myself at work last night. The majority of people would clinically define my last two days as the developing stages of depression, and yet at this moment, the smile on my face is lighting up my room.
*If you haven't played it, I'm not ruining it as there are multiple endings, I am a nerd but I haven't played it ten times yet.
For ninety-two minutes, the DC United defense that was supposed to be suspect held off Sporting's attacks. For the match's entirety, Sporting KC's defense and the DC's offense didn't give Jimmy Nielsen any work, credited with a lone save in the game. So we were doomed into the 0-0 final, which soccer haters and Italian national team fans love to see.
The Teal Bunbury-CJ Sapong debate will rage all season. Whenever we proclaim CJ the starter Teal will inevitably score a brace. After Teal goes quiet for seventy minutes, CJ will score a game-winner and people will forget Teal's goals. The back and forth will continue, and the entire time we bicker the wins will pile up. I assume some higher power has intervened on our behalf for all of our years following the star-crossed sports teams of Kansas City. No one does penitence like a Royals fan, whose failures are not due to front office moves but rather fate evening out the Denkinger mistake or punishing them for employing Rush Limbaugh at one point. All sports are mystical in nature, and laugh at our silly attempts to analyze and statistically categorize them.
Since I write often about the men's national team so much, it's hard not to see Jozy Altidore and CJ and compare the two. You can't make a forward physical, they come like that or they don't. Jozy and CJ were given those frames, but the cuts and the intuition is all learned, all nuances to enhance a natural talent. Fifteen minutes is such a short period of time in soccer, and because of the dominance of midfield play sometimes strikers don't even see the ball after making a late appearance. Perhaps the flow of the game is not to the sub's liking and they can't seem to get together with the rest of the team. For some reason, CJ Sapong is immune to this. I assume because he is a bull in a china shop.
When CJ comes onto the field, the game changes for him. His body, already a force to be dealt with, enters the fray with every defender tired from chasing Convey, Bunbury and Kamara for the entirety of the match. He forces the opponent into tough situations and draws fouls. Every foul puts the ball on Graham Zusi's foot, and there is no place where I would rather it be at this moment. Then, Zusi gets a last chance to win a game where has dominated possession but Bill Hamid has been perfect in goal.* He gives a perfect cross, not to overstate this but placement, pace, and curve all were exorbitant. One mistake in what should be commended as a solid defensive performance by DC United and CJ Sapong has earned a road victory.
*2012 started off like 2011. I just think of the opponent's play in goal for the season and wonder what Sporting Kc does to inspire opposing goalies. Looking at you, Dan Kennedy.
The goal itself wasn't pretty. It wasn't an Oguchi Onyewu "I will head the ball through your chest" header. However, that is the charm that CJ brings to the table, it usually isn't pretty. The greatest goal scorers in the world today do make it look pretty, but sometimes you need a guy who just puts it in the back of the net. There are days when I long for the curved free kicks of David Beckham, but those are the same days I remember the ugly* gritty brace put together by Conor Casey that got the Americans to the top of CONCACAF qualifying in 2009. All goals count just the same (Truthfully, own goals are far more hilarious).
*Not the goals, a reference to bulky, bald white guys like Casey and myself
There is a theory is sports that reads, "Any athlete who performs at a level above his expected performance as a rookie, shall spend his second season struggling like any other athlete would have as a rookie." Calmly inform them that C.J. has heard their theory and has proposed a corollary, "C.J. Sapong reserves the right to enter a game and do exactly what he did last year. Score goals and win matches."
Why am I smiling so wide? Because we get to watch this guy do this.
The MLS, for the near future, is going to be hard to dig in if you're a new fan. The league's model is so economical, that it will continuously lead to players looking overseas. For every Clint Dempsey there is a Freddy Adu, so players might look overseas with some hesitance, but like any young man offered a larger paycheck, the lure is undeniable. I'm telling you right now, the work Sporting KC is putting in with CJ Sapong is going to lead him to greener pastures, but for this moment, we have this whirling dervish at forward. For this match and the current, that certainly is enough to make this fan happy.
Note: If you were expecting an actual love song and find yourself disappointed at this point, Alexander Ebert will have to suffice. The last love song I wrote brought hundreds to tears, either it was moving or sucked that bad. Optimistic me says either way it moved people.