CHESTER, Pa. -- C.J. Sapong had a special night.
“To score [a hat trick] in that fashion, when you know you’re just trying to get into a zone, work together with my teammates, that’s the best way,” Sapong said. “You never go out and expect to score a hat trick. For me to know that I can have an impact on the team and hit a career milestone, I’m happy.”
But Sapong’s production didn’t come without a bout of fortune. His first goal happened at the 74-minute mark and was a shot off a fast break that deflected off of Aaron and bounced past Luis Robles. The second was a combination of volleys from Fabian Herbers and Chris Pontius that allowed Sapong an opportunity from the crease.
“The stars were in perfect alignment for us,” Sapong said.
The third was a penalty kick from a Red Bulls' handball, which Sapong confidently finished to the right of Robles. The Union striker was surging.
“Haris [Medunjanin] tried to take the penalty but I was like, ‘No, no chance,’” Union captain Alejandro Bedoya said. “It’s C.J.”
More than just a landmark effort from Sapong, it was a team slump-buster. With the victory, the Union snapped a 16-game winless streak dating back to last August. It was also their first win in 2017, pushing their record to 1-4-4. While it may not look it on paper, it was exactly what the club needed.
“Honestly, C.J. has been one of our bright spots this year and I think a lot of people have noticed that even with not many results going our way,” Keegan Rosenberry said. “For him to get the goals, and with us getting the win, is awesome for us and for him. Hopefully, we can keep him going, give him good service and keep him going in a good way.”
Rosenberry wasn’t the only teammate to remark on Sapong’s strong play. The forward entered Saturday’s game leading the Union with four goals and nearly doubled that late in the second half to tie Cubo Torres of the Houston Dynamo for the MLS lead in goals with seven.
“Look at him,” Bedoya said. “He wasn’t starting at the beginning of the season. But he’s mentally strong, and as a striker you also need service. So it’s up to us, the whole team, to get him those chances and he’s been putting them away. Credit to C.J. for being mentally strong and getting these goals.”
But he needs more, as the next step for the 29-year-old is a career season. He’s never scored more than nine goals in a given year but has seven already in 2017. And if the Union are going to pull out of the Eastern Conference basement, they’ll have to do it through their primary forward.
“The games just haven’t gone our way,” Sapong said. “We’re still at the bottom of the table right now. We still have a lot of climbing to do, but we have a little bit more incentive, inspiration and motivation to do that now."