The United States Men’s National Team took a bit of a hit with the news that Jozy Altidore is most likely going to be missing for the Copa America. The hulking Toronto striker suffered another hamstring injury along the lines of what he experienced in the 2014 World Cup.
While this is a big loss for the USMNT, the positive twist is that they have a ready and waiting replacement who has more upside and a lot of the same qualities as Altidore. That man is Philadelphia Union striker C.J. Sapong.
Sapong is having a great year and has established himself as one of the premier strikers in MLS. He stands even bigger than Jozy Altidore and he knows how to wield that extra size, as he is an aerial menace who wins nearly three aerial duels a game. That casts a shadow over the 2.3 that Jozy Altidore wins.
Altidore has often been criticized for not knowing how to use his size to his advantage. Sapong does not have that problem. With strikers like Dempsey, Bobby Wood, Zardes and Jordan Morris, the missing presence is that physical striker role that Altidore filled. Sapong can fill that same role and he has the accompanying pieces to make this void that Jozy left feel fulfilled.
One of the main perks that Altidore brings is his hold up play and the accompanying passing. Well, Sapong has managed a mirror image of Altidore’s passing this year, matching his numbers to a tee.
It was an egregious error to leave Sapong off the the roster in the first place. He has always had the talent to be in the conversation, he’s just been struggling to find his consistency. This year has seen all of the hard work he puts in come to fruition.
Sapong has had a part to play in nearly every Union goal, from just taking up space and being big to being one of the links that spurred the movement forward. He is growing more and more clinical with each passing day. You won’t find a more obvious reason for why the Union are doing so well this year. A huge part of it comes down to Sapong’s emergence.
The 27 year old has noted that he would love to make it back to international play. He is just a year older than Altidore, so he can be a presence in the USMNT going into the 2018 World Cup.
It shouldn’t have come to this to get Sapong closer to the USMNT, but now that it has, they cannot make the same mistake again.