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C.J. Sapong brings ‘the spice’ to Chicago Fire with hot scoring start

Mar 9, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire forward C.J. Sapong (9) celebrates his goal during the second half against Orlando City at SeatGeek Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — It’s no secret what C.J. Sapong has brought to the Chicago Fire.

“Goals. It’s nice and simple,” goalkeeper David Ousted said.

Sapong has scored in each of his first two games with the Fire. On Saturday, he salvaged a point for the hosts against Orlando with a 95th-minute equalizer.

Sapong said the strategy on that play was simply for him to stay in the box. He took advantage of his size with a well-placed header on the end of a Przemysław Frankowski long ball. It was the final play of the match.

Sapong’s first goal for the Fire was early in the second half of the season opener in LA. He intercepted an errant back pass and finished off the breakaway. However, like against Orlando, his goal was not enough for a win.

“I feel like just in the game in LA we felt like we left a little bit on the field there and could have found ourselves in front early,” Sapong said. “At least this time we came away with a point, but I think it’s something that we’re all going to go home with and try to see where we can do better and try to not find ourselves in those positions.”

While Sapong finished off his chances, Nemanja Nikolic didn’t against Orlando. Nikolic missed a pair of clear scoring chances. The former MLS Golden Boot winner didn’t play in the opener because he was late traveling to LA after his wife gave birth earlier in the week.

With Nikolic back in the lineup against Orlando, Sapong slotted into one of the wing positions. Frankowski was limited to 22 minutes after picking up an ankle injury in training on Friday.

Sapong’s role when everyone is healthy remains unclear. For now, coach Veljko Paunovic sees another goal scorer on the team.

“He’s capable of giving the team a break, holding the ball and when we have to step from our half and in the transition to the opponent’s’ end,” Paunovic said. “As he said when he came to this club, he brings the spice to our team and that’s how it feels.

“I really think he still has a lot to bring to the team.”

Sapong only joined the Fire five days before the LA game after being traded from Philadelphia. He’s still learning the team and how Paunovic wants to play, especially considering he has played in two different positions already.

“I think there’s still a while to go there,” Sapong said of adjusting to the Fire. “I’m very fortunate to have been on the scoresheet the last two games, but I personally feel within my game and how I’m cohesively working with the team, there’s a little bit of ways for me to get there.”




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