Photo courtesy Major League Soccer
A veteran striker is in the fold. From Club release:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 10, 2021) – Nashville Soccer Club announced today that the club has acquired 10-year Major League Soccer veteran CJ Sapong via free agency. Sapong is set to join Nashville on a two-year deal with an option for a third year as the club continues to bolster its rosters ahead of its second MLS season.
“CJ is a proven goal scorer who plays with the energy and enthusiasm needed in successful teams,” said Nashville SC General Manager Mike Jacobs. “His athleticism and tenacity, coupled with his versatility to play multiple roles across the front line, makes him a handful to play against. He also adds to an attacking corps that really caught fire towards the end of our first season when we had our full complement of players. His addition only enhances that group.”
With 276 MLS appearances, 71 goals and 25 assists, the veteran striker joins a nucleus of attacking options for Nashville SC that includes recently announced winger Rodrigo Piñeiro, and an onslaught of dynamic playmakers featuring Jhonder Cádiz, Randall Leal, Hany Mukhtar, and Daniel Ríos.
Sapong spent the last two years as a member of Chicago Fire FC. In his first full season with Chicago in 2019, the striker scored a team leading 13 goals in 32 appearances and was tied for the team lead in game-winning goals, and goals scored at home while leading the club in goals scored on the road.
Prior to joining the Fire, Sapong spent four seasons with the Philadelphia Union. In 2017, Sapong registered a career-high 16 goals in the regular season, which remains the most goals scored in a regular season campaign by any player in Union history, and led the team to two separate Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final appearances.
The veteran began his MLS career after originally being selected by Sporting Kansas City as the 10th overall selection in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. Sapong made 34 appearances during his rookie season, scoring five goals and adding five assists as he was named the 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year. In four seasons with Sporting KC, Sapong brought home the 2013 MLS Cup and the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
At the international level, Sapong has earned four caps with the U.S. Men’s National Team. After receiving an invitation to the team’s January camp in 2012, Sapong made his debut for the USMNT in a friendly against Venezuela on Jan. 21. He earned his second cap just four days later with a substitute appearance against Panama. In 2017, Sapong received the nod to represent the USMNT ahead of a friendly in Portugal on Nov. 14. He started that match, and recorded an assist in the 1-1 draw.Nashville SC release
Picking up a veteran, proven goal-scorer via free agency is a big win. If there are still goals left in CJ Sapong‘s 32-year old legs (and I would say that’s possibly an open question – with a lean toward yes – with 13 goals in a full run in 2019 and two in 11 games for the Fire last year). Not having to spend in acquisition ultimately means more money to go around the roster in the build, either for player salaries or in signing guys at other positions.
It does introduce an interesting logjam at striker, with Jhonder Cádiz expected to join on a permanent basis after his loan from Portugal technically expires in the summer window, with Daniel Ríos and Dominique Badji also manning the striker position. With winger Abu Danladi capable of providing minutes up top (and to be fair, Badji also capable of giving a bit on the wing), that’s a lot of bodies for just one position.
Does it portend personnel departures down the road, or just a depth chart that contains a bunch of guys who have starting experience but are barely able to see the field in Nashville? That remains to be seen, but it would seem Badji is the most similar to Sapong, the guy who was able to prove himself the least for Nashville last year, and perhaps the most likely to be surplus to requirements.
More analysis to come.