KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Sporting Kansas City are just two games into their season – and that's already the longest C.J. Sapong has gone without a start to open a campaign.
And after his strong showings off the bench in those two matches, Sapong's backers in the Kansas City fan base are starting to ask when he'll be back in the starting XI.
Manager Peter Vermes is, as usual, loath to discuss lineup changes. But at Tuesday's weekly news conference, he said Sapong brings the same skills and energy to both situations.
“I think the great thing is that when he comes off the bench, he has a great attitude,” Vermes said. “He doesn't allow the fact that he's not starting to affect him when he comes in. He winds up being a major spark. When he starts, he comes in with the same idea.”
The 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year, who can play all three forward positions, has come on for left winger Bobby Convey in both of his appearances.
His outside-in play and physicality opened up the Union's defense in Sporting's 3-1 comeback win at Philadelphia in the season opener. And after coming on at the half, Sapong created several scoring opportunities and assisted on Claudio Bieler's goal in Saturday's 2-1 away loss to Toronto FC.
“C.J. was a good spark for us at half,” Vermes told reporters afterward. “He kind of changed a lot of the game for us, so it was good to see.”
Bieler has two goals in as many matches at center forward, and right winger Graham Zusi already has a goal and two assists this season. But Sapong's versatility means he could get the nod at any of the three spots at any time, Vermes said.
“Sometimes it's opponents,” he said. “Sometimes it's what we're trying to achieve in a game. Sometimes it's form of players as well. It's not just one thing. It's quite a few things that go into decisions.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.