KANSAS CITY, Mo. – C.J. Sapong's brief loan stint to Orlando City SC helped him rediscover his passion for the game – and reminded him that there's always going to be someone coming after his job.
“Traveling with those guys, and seeing that environment, was humbling to say the least,” the Sporting Kansas City forward told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “It was pretty good to be in a situation where you realize that you could be worse off. Sometimes you fall into the trap of being comfortable and not realizing that you should appreciate your position. There's always somebody that's willing to take it. Being with those guys, they all want to be at this level.”
The 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year made three full-90 appearances with Sporting's USL PRO affiliates, with one goal – the same number he has all year in Kansas City – and one assist.
“The best thing was, I was involved in every one of their goals while I was down there,” he said. “It was good to feel like I had an impact. The last couple of weeks or months with this team, I haven't really – and it's not just the stat sheet – I just didn't think I was having much of an impact.”
The spark of contributing for a club rekindled his enthusiasm for soccer as more than just a job, Sapong said.
“I got a newfound appreciation and passion for the sport,” he said. “You realize that all the other outside factors, they only do so much. At the end of the day, it's a guy and a ball. Collectively, you and your teammates are just trying to find a way to win.
“I can see how before, I kind of let a lot of different factors come into play in my mindset,” he said. “So it was good to get that raw feeling and raw passion for the sport back again.”
And while Sapong isn't guaranteed to stay up with Sporting once USL PRO's two-week break is over, he's not looking ahead. He's just enjoying being back up at the MLS level.
“Obviously, the saying is true. You don't realize what you're missing until it's gone,” Sapong said. “As soon as I got back, I couldn't hold in my happiness. I was so happy to see everybody. We've been doing really well, and everybody's vibing really nicely. I'm getting that feeling of enjoying practice every day.”
And, from time to time, doing something crazy just to see if he can – like the perfect scorpion kick he buried at the end of training on Tuesday.
“I've never in my life done anything like that,” he said. “I was just feeling it. Everyone was joking, and I was like, 'All right, this is my last round. I'm going for it.' It came, I just – it was perfect. I was like, 'OK, I'm done.'
“You find that youthful passion for the game. You don't want to just play it and get the job done. You want to enjoy it and be creative, take your game to another level.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.