C.J. Sapong ready to take advantage of opportunity with Orlando City
C.J. Sapong has been philosophical about his past accolades, and he's taking the same approach to his current struggles.
And if people have questions about how a former MLS Rookie of the Year could find himself on loan to a third-tier side fewer than two years later, that's not the young forward's concern.
“I was never anybody that put a lot of merit into those things, so when it's reversed, I still don't put too much into it,” Sapong told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday, after learning he was being loaned from Sporting Kansas City to USL PRO affiliate Orlando City SC. “Everybody's going to think and see what they want to see, and whatever they want to think. All I can control is what I can control, so that's what I'm doing.”
Sapong and defender Kevin Ellis will both spend a short term with the Lions, who have four games – starting on Thursday – in a nine-day span before going on a two-week break.
“The both of them will probably come back after that, but the loan is open,” manager Peter Vermes said on Wednesday. “I could send them back again.”
Vermes stressed that the club has not given up on Sapong, who had five league goals as a rookie and nine last year but has netted only once this year and wasn't in the 18 for Sporting's last two matches.
“I think he needs to go there and get back into form a little bit,” Vermes said. “He's not going to do that by, right now, currently where he sits. He can go there and get the minutes and more importantly get the games to play, which I hope gets him back into form.
“We haven't given up on him. I want to be clear on that. That's not even the case at all. It's just that sometimes, a little change of environment can spark something in a player.”
Sapong is open to that change.
“It's an opportunity,” he said. “I haven't been in the 18 the past couple of games, so it's an opportunity to get some minutes in, and I'm going to use the situation to take the most out of it.
“I already know what I'm capable of,” he added. “This is just an opportunity to show that I still have that in me and solidify my spot on the team.”
Ellis, a Homegrown player who is in his third season, is going to the Lions to build match fitness.
“We have a lot of games coming up in the next month or so,” said Ellis, who made his league debut as a sub on June 29 and earned his first MLS start in a 1-1 draw with Vancouver on July 3. “I'm taking it as going to get some fitness and hopefully be back and available to play in those games.”
And with seven matches in August, including two away legs in CONCACAF Champions League play, Sporting will need all the depth they can get.
“I want him to get as much 90-minute fit as he can, because I really think he's coming along,” Vermes said. “The more that he gets 90 minutes under his belt, the more I'm not going to have to do what I did in that one game, where I played him and had to take him out because he couldn't finish the game off. I don't want to use a sub on a defender if I don't have to.”