Going into Thursday's MLS SuperDraft, soccer pundits, analysts and fans all were thinking the club needed one thing: defense. But after many of the top defenders in the draft class were snapped up before SKC's pick at No. 10, the team chose to go for offense.
The move startled just about everybody, including SKC's selection, CJ Sapong, a standout forward from James Madison University. "I was surprised being [taken in the] first round. James Madison University wasn't a place where I got a lot of exposure," the giddy Sapong says. "I knew I was one of many players with a lot to prove."
Outside observers were similarly caught off guard by the choice. ESPN
soccer writer Jeff Carlisle wrote during a live chat of the draft,
"Sporting KC takes CJ Sapong. Wow!" A few minutes later, he added,
"Sapong ... had a good combine. Big, strong, decent with his back to
goal. That said, I'm having a hard time seeing how this guy gets on the
That's because SKC is well-stocked in the offense department, with
designated player Omar Bravo and up and coming wunderkind Teal Bunbury
(who was just profiled in The
New York Times) set to anchor the goal-scoring for the club.
Still, Sapong, 22, sees himself fitting just fine as the club moves into its
new stadium next year.
"I just see myself as another very dangerous attacking option. Me
jumping in there will just be more havoc for defenders," he says. Loaded
with skilled attackers, maybe the team's philosophy will have to be
that the best defense is a good offense. "Exactly. You score more goals
than the other team, you're going to win, right?" Sapong says.
During his college years, the Virginia native scored plenty, amassing 37
goals and 21 assists in 71 career games at JMU, which earned him a slew of
collegiate honors. He says that during the MLS combine, Sporting wasn't
shy about how much he had impressed them, even as others predicted he
would languish until the second round. "They were the first team that
called me, the first team I met with, the strongest connection I felt.
And ultimately I think that's what led to me being picked," Sapong, who
has never been to Kansas City, says.
The 6-foot-1 Sapong gives partial credit for his vault into the 10th
overall selection to video games. "I'm a pretty fluid dancer," he says.
"I got the Michael Jackson Experience game for the Wii. I kind of use
that as training some mornings. Woke up did a couple dances on that, and
I felt like I got a good workout."
And for the record, Sapong, like most Kansas City soccer fans, admits that he has a soft spot for the erstwhile Wizards moniker, but he has warmed to "overseas feel" of Sporting. "Whatever we go by, I'm going to rep it to the fullest," he says.
Here's a video of Sapong's highlights. The video looks like it was made in 1985, but he looks pretty sharp throughout.