24 Under 24 (2012): #2 C.J. Sapong (IMAGE)
Gabriel de los Rios / MLSsoccer.com

24 Under 24: #2 CJ Sapong, Sporting Kansas City

2. C.J. Sapong

Pos: F | Sporting Kansas City | Age: 23

The 2011 Rookie of the Year had high expectations coming into this season, especially after a January call-up to the US national team. But after a strong start in MLS with three goals in his first four games, Sapong hit two lengthy dry spells and battled injury, ultimately being dropped from the starting XI. It was the first bit of real adversity for a player who was often asked to play out wide in SKC's 4-3-3, failing to register a single assist despite all his hard work. But with Teal Bunbury’s season-ending injury, Sapong is once again the undisputed first-choice center forward and he has already capitalized on the opportunity with two goals in his first three games as a starter.

What the TDs and coaches like: “He’s a handful. He’s going to be in your face, he’s going to run every ball down, he’s going to challenge for every head ball. … An athletic, strong forward that can really cause centerbacks problems … Has pace, skill, size, power and strength … Tremendous physical qualities. He’s a very strong, physical runner … He’s a hard worker … Powerful, dynamic young forward with lots of skills, and a great future with the US national team … Athletic, strong and courageous … Has the ability to best an opponent with speed or power … Has good foot skills … Fits extremely well with Sporting KC … Has a good attitude and shows good energy on the field … I would consider him one of the best strikers in MLS.”

Where TDs and coaches want improvement: “His finishing touch has a ways to go and he needs to learn some of the intricacies of the game … The question is, can he be an every day, 90-minute guy and put up the numbers? … He can be a better finisher … He needs to get on point with the proper runs, with pressing the right way and a little smarter with angling guys a certain way … Tactically, he could put himself in better positions and that’s something that’s going to raise his game … He is one step away from making the jump, needs time and games.”

Opta Says: Only four players younger than 24 have been fouled more times in MLS this year than Sapong's 38 fouls drawn: Felipe (64), Gershon Koffie (50), Martin Rivero (50) and Darlington Nagbe (42).

Tale of the Tape
Last Year in 24U24: #15
Fan Ranking: #3
Castrol Index (as of 9/20/12): #33

2012 Stats
Matches played: 26
Matches started: 19
Goals: 7
Assists: 0

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