CJ Sapong started off fast as a rookie, just about as fast as feasibly possible. Teal Bunbury was hurt in preseason so Sapong got the nod to start in the first game of the season. CJ scored on Chivas just one minute and 43 seconds into his career. It was not only Sapong's first goal, it was the first goal after the re-brand so he will go down as the first Sporting KC goal.
The next few games were understandably rocky with Sporting KC starting on the road while the stadium was finished. The first home game with the Fire was a scoreless draw but the next home game was against San Jose. The goal in that game took a little longer but Sapong also scored the first MLS goal at Sporting Park in the 31st minute.
Sapong's smiling attitude, fun loving goal celebrations, pure athletic ability and a partnership with fellow prankster Kei Kamara led fans to fall in love with the young forward.
CJ finished the season with five goals in 2011 and earned the Rookie of the year. He followed it up with nine in 2012. A crowded front line and being pushed out wide led to a drop off in goals with four in 2013 and only two last season.
When Sapong was drafted and finding success the first two years, manager Peter Vermes would describe his young forward as having basketball-like turning ability and that CJ could use his body like a slinky to turn around defenders. All traits good to a post-up target forward with his back to the goal, not a winger who had to create and get the ball to a center forward.
While he would have liked to keep Sapong for depth, Vermes knew that if he could not protect him in the expansion draft then he was a likely choice to be selected.
"The biggest thing with this trade is you can only protect eleven players," Vermes explained. "We had to protect three foreign players as well so it really lessened the number of players we could protect. We felt he just had so much value and it was going to be tough to protect so we thought it was better for us to try and move him before someone came and took him through the expansion draft."
Logical and business-like but strange nevertheless. Could not consistently start but too much value to keep...
The night before the trade there were rumors that Sapong was being traded straight-up for young goalkeeper Zac MacMath. With Sporting KC in need of keepers the rumor made sense but did not come to fruition.
Vermes denied that the trade was ever anything but what it turned out to be but his track record as "trader Pete" led to some speculation.
In 2011 Vermes sent the rights to Ryan Smith to Chivas USA in exchange for a supplemental pick in the trade window before the protected list were final. A few days later, Chivas sent Paulo Nagamura to Kansas City for that very same pick. In reality what happened was the trade was Smith for Nagamura. The pick was just a place holder and Chivas had to use up two slots to protect both players allowing Vermes to protect more players.
Classic Vermes move? Yes
Is that what is happening here? Vermes denies it and the Union did not protect MacMath so at least that deal in not in the works. There may be something else brewing. Vermes does describe what he needs to do as being creative.
End result is that Sapong is in Philadelphia and Sporting KC has more allocation money to use. If the Union play Sapong in a central role and if they can light a fire in him he could be a very good pick up for the Union.