Veteran forward CJ Sapong happy for new adventure north of the border with Toronto FC

·3 min read

TORONTO — Now on his fifth MLS team, newly acquired Toronto FC forward CJ Sapong says uprooting your family doesn't get any easier.

Especially with a wife and kids aged two and five. But he's happy to land with TFC.

"Definitely a surprise," Sapong, asked about this week's trade from Nashville, said after training Friday. "It's been a little bit of a whirlwind. Fortunately I'm able to get right into the group and focus on a game (Saturday against visiting New York City FC). For us, in our position, the best thing is to just play football.

"Everything else will work itself (out) over time, but it will be a process. Other than that I'm excited to start a new journey, a new chapter. To be with a group of guys, an organization that's decorated, fighting for things. I want to be part of that."

"I just want to work for the team and score goals, man … The wind has changed direction but I'm still standing firm and here ready to represent Toronto," he added.

The 34-year-old native of Manassas, Va., arrives with 90 goals and 37 assists in 366 MLS regular-season and playoff games. His last league goal was May 28, 2022, in Nashville's 3-1 win over Colorado — a 29-game regular-season drought.

"At our level things like this just happen," said Sapong. "It's the first time for me I've ever gone that long without scoring."

Toronto sent Canadian defender Lukas MacNaughton and up to US$200,000 in general allocation money to get Sapong in a deal announced Tuesday.

Toronto coach Bob Bradley is clearly looking forward to working with Sapong, calling the 13-year veteran an "unselfish" target man who works for the team, can hold up the ball and help create space for teammates.

With veteran forward Adama Diomande limited to 122 minutes in just two appearances this season before being sidelined by a hamstring injury March 4, Bradley has tried Deandre Kerr, Jordan Perruzza and Ayo Akinola up front. Last week Italian star winger Lorenzo Insigne was given a more forward role.

Toronto (1-2-6) is one of four teams tied for 10th in scoring this season, averaging 1.33 goals a game. The hope is Sapong can help create more space for Insigne and fellow Italian Federico Bernardeschi to operate in.

"CJ's a relentless (No.) 9," said Toronto goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

"(A) big, strong, dominant, confident (No.) 9 who also adds an element to the group in terms of his personality and leadership. Just a good guy in the locker-room."

Sapong was drafted in the first round (10th overall) by Sporting Kansas City in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. He went on to play for the Philadelphia Union, Chicago Fire and Nashville.

"This is the first time I'm doing it having a family," he said of this week's move. "Understanding the logistics for them and their lives being changed, that's the new added dynamic.

"However personally, as a player in my career, this is one of the better changes of scenery for me."

He says he's always enjoyed visiting Toronto and looks forward to learning more about both the city and country.

"I've got another adventure and what better city to do it than in Toronto," he said.

He sees the move north of the border as an opportunity, on and off the field.

"When I look at my family in particular, I think being able to add this chapter to our story is a beautiful thing and I do believe we'll come out of this better than before."

And for those wondering, Sapong's first name is Charles but there is no J.

"My mom just started calling me CJ when I was younger and here we are," he explained.

Bradley said Sapong could see action Saturday against NYCFC (4-2-3)


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2023

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press