FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Sporting Kansas City striker C.J. Sapong popped onto New England's radar well before he signed a new contract on Thursday morning.
The reigning Rookie of the Year represents one of the most notable options in an arsenal of weapons Sporting plans to wield against the Revolution at Livestrong Sporting Park on Saturday night (8:30 pm ET, MLS Live).
Sapong scored the winning goal as a second-half substitute for Peter Vermes' side in its 1-0 victory at D.C. United last weekend. His display caught the eye of Revolution defender A.J. Soares as he and his teammates went through their preparations for the match this week.
“They've got C.J. up top,” Soares told MLSsoccer.com. “He's scored already. He showed why he's Rookie of the Year. He's really come on, he earned his national team cap. That's a guy you have to look at. In addition to him, you've got a bunch of guys that are just as good as he is. It's definitely a tough team to play. They showed why they finished so high in the league last year.”
Those performances revealed an aggressive unit willing to chase the game with or without the ball. Sporting's preference to play at a high tempo clashes with New England's more deliberate, possession-oriented approach.
After struggling with another stylistic conflict in San Jose last weekend, the Revs need to learn from that setback and locate times during the match to exert their own influence on the affair, according to Revolution coach Jay Heaps.
“They're going to run with numbers and they're going to press, so, yeah, we have to find those times in the game to absorb what they're going to give us,” Heaps said. “Any good team you're going to play against, there's going to be a time where you don't have the ball and they're dictating the flow. We have to be in good positions and react to that, but also be proactive as well.”
The continued selection concerns at the back – Darrius Barnes (left calf strain) and John Lozano (right hip flexor strain) will miss the match, but Chris Tierney returns from suspension – won't impact the Revs' desire to push forward at certain points during the game.
Soares believes he and his teammates will present a difficult challenge for the Eastern Conference favorites when they have the chance to show their own qualities in the attacking third.
“We have some really good players,” Soares said. “They're going to be worried about Benny [Feilhaber], just like we're going to be worried about some of their guys. They're going to be worried about Kelyn [Rowe]. They have the same problem we do: They have to watch out for the good players.”