C.J. Sapong nears double digits, makes case for late Gold Cup inclusion

CHESTER, Pa. — One more goal.

After scoring in Sunday’s 3-0 rout of the New England Revolution, that’s all Philadelphia Union striker C.J. Sapong needs to hit the double-digit mark for the first time in his seven-year MLS career.

Considering that kind of production, does Sapong think he could get a call from Bruce Arena to join the US national team for the Gold Cup between the group stage and knockout rounds?

“I mean, at the end of the day, all I know is that I’m on standby and all I can do is focus on helping my team,” said Sapong, who was named to Arena’s provisional 40-man roster but wasn’t included in the final 23-man group. “If it happens, it happens. If not, I’m still gonna keep playing my game.”

Sapong certainly showed his worth very early in Sunday’s nationally televised game, firing a cross off Benjamin Angoua’s arm at the edge of the box two minutes in, grabbing the ball as soon as the handball was called, and scoring his third PK of the season.

But it’s been the little things that have drawn most of head coach Jim Curtin’s praise throughout the year. Sapong has performed critical hold-up work while taking a beating from opposing center backs and opening valves for his teammates.

Against the Revs, Ilsinho and Roland Alberg — two No. 10s who’ve had up-and-down seasons — took advantage by following Sapong’s goals with superb ones of their own to put the finishing touches on Philly's second straight win.

“It would be great [to get to 10 goals],” Sapong admitted. “But I’m just happy I can also find ways to put my teammates in scoring position. I’m seeing my battling throughout the game is paying dividends for myself and my teammates around me so I just want to keep doing that.

“It’s always great when you have players in there that are able to pull anything out of their pocket,” he added. “Ilsinho and Roland are two of those kind of players. … If they stay confident, I think we’ll be a force to be reckoned with.”

For now, how the Union are playing is all Sapong’s worried about. And while getting to 10 goals will certainly be nice after hitting nine in three separate seasons, he admitted that “it’s a milestone I think that isn’t always indicative of the way a player is playing.”

He held no ill will about missing the initial Gold Cup cut behind strikers Juan Agudelo (seven goals), Dom Dwyer (five goals) and Jordan Morris (two goals).

“Honestly for me, it felt like a crapshoot,” Sapong said. “There are talented guys included in the roster. You had experience; you had guys who have proven themselves in the league. I was just honored to have been among those names. It’s nothing I’m losing sleep over.

“It would be a great opportunity. But, at the moment, we have some work to do here and some spots to climb.”