CJ Sapong gets Chicago Fire career off to fast – and needed – start

CHICAGO — When a team wins only eight games in Major League Soccer a year after making the playoffs, changes are likely — even if not wholesale.

That was the case for the Chicago Fire in 2019, as they kept around a number of key players like Bastian Schweinsteiger, Nemenja Nikolic, and Johan Kappelhof. Yet at the same time, they’ve added a collection of new players in hopes to change the fortunes of the club.

One of those players is making an impact immediately, and at the moment, has provided their two scores on the 2019 MLS season.

Forward C.J. Sapong, who spent the past four years with the Philadelphia Union, saved the game for the Fire in their home opener on Saturday at SeatGeek Stadium. His header in the 95-minute deep into stoppage time found the back of the net, salvaged a 1-1 tie against Orlando City FC on a chilly day in Bridgeview.

“Yeah it was a relief,” said Sapong of the goal to Chicago-Fire.com. “I feel like just like the game in LA we felt like we left a little bit on the field there and could have found ourselves in front early, but at least this time we came away with a point.”

That wasn’t the case last week, as Sapong said, when the Galaxy used a late goal by Zlatan Ibrahimovic to beat the Fire 2-1 in the season opener. The new forward scored the Fire’s only goal of the game when he stole an errant pass and beat the keeper with a strike in the 49th minute.

The two goals are already half the total Sapong had last year with the Union, when he played in 32 games, starting 29 of them. That came just a season removed from his career-high 16 goals he scored for Philadelphia in 2017, which makes up nearly a fourth of his total of 58 in his eight years and two games in the MLS.

“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 my team that there’s a little bit of  ways for me to get there,” said Sapong. “But, yes, it’s always good to get on the scoresheet, I’m very fortunate for that, and I’m going to keep building off of that.”

If he does, maybe he can make a run at his season-high for goals from two years ago as the Fire try to recapture their good fortune of 2017 as well.

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