Just a few years ago, C.J. Sapong was perhaps the most exciting young prospect in MLS. After being selected 10th overall in the 2011 Super Draft, Sapong scored just two minutes into his debut, faster than any other player to start in their debut. In 34 appearances as a rookie, the 6-foot-1 forward tallied 5 goals and 5 assists, good enough to earn him MLS Rookie of the Year honors.
Nov 6, 2013; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting KC forward C.J. Sapong (17) warms up before the match against the New England Revolution at Sporting Park. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Fast forward three years, and Sapong has appeared just six times in 17 matches for Sporting Kansas City without scoring a single goal. After improving his production in his second season with 9 goals in 31 appearances, the striker’s minutes dipped as he appeared as a substitute nine times, equal to the number of his first two seasons combined
Of course, Sapong has become a lot less relevant with the emergence of Dom Dwyer, who currently sits tied for second in league goals with Erick Torres and two behind Bradley Wright-Phillips. With that said, Dwyer would be favored regardless of where he played, and that has nothing to do with C.J.
With each passing week since Peter Vermes took over, it appears that he becomes less and less concerned about the role that the once highly coveted forward will play.
There is no questioning the fact that Sapong’s production has declined. For example, he launched 25 shots on goal in 2011, 24 in 2012, and just 15 combined between all of last season and this season thus far. Nobody is questioning why Vermes is reluctant to start Sapong, but perhaps some minutes elsewhere would give him an opportunity to revive his career. In addition, Sporting KC could likely get good value back in a trade for a 25-year old forward that has shown flashes of brilliance in the league.
Columbus Crew is one club that seems to make a lot of sense for all parties involved. After shipping Dominic Oduro off to the Chicago Fire, Gregg Berhalter‘s side could desperately use another goal scoring threat. In his first season as head coach and sporting director, his team has struggled to find the back of the net just 19 times in 17 matches.
Oduro proved to be too inconsistent to ever latch on to a starting role in Columbus, which is probably why Berhalter viewed him as expendable. However, with his team still struggling to produce goals and results, it may be time to look elsewhere.
Columbus has nobody that can match Sapong’s size, strength, and physicality up front other than 6-foot-7 Adam Bedell, who has averaged just 10 minutes per appearance during the seven times he has come on for the Crew. At 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, Sapong could potentially be useful in hold-up play, allowing creative players such as Federico Higuain and Jairo Arrieta to put their fingerprints on the attack.
Clearly, playing time for Sapong could boost his confidence and ultimately get him back into his 2011-2012 form, and a target forward option could be a nice piece for a struggling Columbus squad. However, the injury bug bit Sporting Kansas City early on this season, particularly in the back, and the Crew have somewhat of a logjam at center back. If Vermes fancies another forward-thinking type to take some of the pressure off of Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber or bring off the bench, Berhalter could offer players such as Ethan Finlay or Justin Meram.
Perhaps this would be a gamble for Columbus, but it is certainly a high-risk-high-reward type of move.