Sporting Kansas City announced on Thursday that second-year forward CJ Sapong has signed a new contract with the club after just one season in Major League Soccer. Sapong scored five goals in MLS play in 2011, won MLS Rookie of the Year honors, and received a call-up to this past January’s US National Team camp where he made a pair of substitute appearances in friendlies against Venezuela and Panama.
The move is a huge coup for Sporting KC, as Sapong has already been asked and talked about openly his desire to one day play in Europe, keeping it no secret. Sapong did not shy again away on Tuesday at Sporting’s annual media day when he spoke exclusively on the Talkin’ Touches podcast.
To hear Sapong talk about his first year as a professional, his national team experiences and his eye for Europe, LISTEN HERE:
Sapong was very candid and forward when talking about a myriad of topics, per usual. On the topic of contracts and playing in Europe, Sapong had the following to say:
“I feel like being in Kansas City, around these players, this coaching staff and these fans can only do good things for me. They can only make me take it to another level.”
“I really can’t make too strong of a guess (on a timeframe), just because I’ve only been in the league for a for a year. Like I’ve said, I’ve seen a tremendous improvement in myself in the mental part of the game, and on the field part.”
“I think there’s still a long way for me to go. I don’t mind being here, and just getting better as much as possible. With the coaching staff – Peter (Vermes) – and the players, I’m learning so much everyday that I’m really not in a rush to throw myself into a position where I might not be as comfortable, or that might take a little longer to get used to. For now, I’m happy with where I am.”
“I still think the sky’s the limit for me. Down the road, when I’m not getting the challenges that I need here and I need to go overseas to take my game to that next level, then I’ll exercise those options, if they present themselves.”
“[The national team] is the whole thought process behind me wanting to go overseas. I feel like I will be more in the running for a spot on the national team. I think now that I’ve gotten my opportunity after being in MLS, I think that I’m on the radar. It’s ultimately up to me and how well I play. If I play very well in MLS, I feel like I’ll still get my opportunity.”
“I don’t want to be in a position where I’m overseas and I’m with the reserve team, not even getting first team games. I would rather be here, getting the minutes and playing well. You’re going to get seen if you’re playing well.”
Grounded. Humble. Focused. Balanced. A few words that come to mind after digesting those quotes from a 23-year old, professional athlete.