The Union have not managed to have a ton of success on the pitch to start the season, but one of the bright spots has been CJ Sapong.
During the offseason, the Union signed Jay Simpson, creating a competition between he and Sapong for the starting striker role. That competition has allowed both players to play the best game they possibly can. The two have combined for all of the Union's goals this season, but Sapong is leading the way with three goals compared to Simpson's one.
"All-around the roster, there's competition at every position," Sapong said. "We're all also in this together, so it's good we can compete but we all wish the best for each other. It makes for a good atmosphere in training."
Simpson scored the first goal of the season when he put a header past Toronto FC's Clint Irwin in the 11th minute of the Union's home opener. He had to be subbed out for Sapong in the 27th minute with a bruised lung, which allowed Sapong to score in the 76th minute for the 2-2 draw. Sapong got his first start of the season against Orlando City and scored Philadelphia's only goal of the game. And after replacing Simpson in the Union's match against DC United, Sapong scored his third goal in as many games.
"I've just been trying to find ways to provide an impact whenever I have an opportunity," Sapong said.
Sapong’s three goals in three games is the second-longest goal streak of his career, trailing only his four-game stretch in June of 2015. In each goal, Sapong has put himself in the right position to succeed.
Against Toronto FC, Sapong slipped past the Red’s defense and received a beautiful pass from Fabian Herbers.
Against Orlando City SC, Sapong crashed the net late and received a pass from Alejandro Bedoya, easily heading it into the net.
In the match against DC United, Sapong again crashed the net, and was fortunate to have a rebound from a Bedoya shot find its way right to his feet with an open net.
As a whole, Sapong is leading many offensive categories for the Union to start the season. While obviously leading in goals, he’s also leading in shots and shots on goal. His 70.3 minutes per goal is also the best on the team. Sapong has created one chance, and has scored a goal because of it. He averages 3.4 shots a game, with a 75 percent shooting accuracy and a 38 percent conversion rate.
All three of his goals have come inside the box, showing Sapong’s proficiency in getting into scoring areas. All of the goals weren’t anything particularly special, but also stands as a perfect example as how Sapong puts himself in a position to succeed and put points on the board for the Union.
"It just comes from staying connected to the game," Sapong said. "Staying focused, being aware and trying to see the next play before it happens. It's a good feeling for me to be in that zone and starting to feel out situations in the game a little better."
Sapong will look to make it four goals in four games when Philadelphia hosts Portland in the Union’s Home Opener Part DOOP Saturday. Kick-off is at 7:00 p.m.