Union striker C.J. Sapong’s breakout year finally showing up in standings

On the Live Breathe Futbol podcast last week, Philadelphia Union (1-4-4) striker C.J. Sapong made a statement prior to the team’s match against the New York Red Bulls (5-5-1) on Saturday.

“I still need a hat trick,” Sapong said. “I haven’t had one in the regular season in my career.”

Heading into Saturday, the Union were riding a 16-game winless streak dating back to August 2016. As a team they netted just eight goals in eight matches and a matchup with their bitter rivals didn’t seem like the time to buck the trend. 

But in the darkest of times for the club, Sapong delivered on his word. 

Sapong netted three goals in the contest, and his first career hat trick, as the Union notched a 3-0 shutout of the Red Bulls. His third was a no-doubter. He placed the ball low on a penalty kick into the corner of the net, completely fooling the goalie as he dabbed in celebration for the Union fans in attendance.

“You never go out and expect to score a hat trick,” Sapong said postgame. “For me, to know that I can have an impact on the team and obviously hit a career milestone, I’m happy — at least for this week.”

The three goals pushed Sapong atop the MLS leaderboard in goals on the year with seven. But Sapong is much happier to get the win and to erase the winless streak which has been such a heavy weight on him and his teammates.

“You can’t put it into words,” Sapong said. “It’s been a long, hard-working road for us to get this win. It’s a beautiful thing. We’re going to let this marinate, but then we still have a lot of climbing to do.”

Climb they must. The Union are still at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with just seven points. They’ll face D.C. United (3-4-2) on the road on Saturday where they’ll attempt to keep their momentum alive. 

“I want to thank our fans, the ones that stuck with us now through this tough time,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “It’s difficult. Now you can see when a team has confidence, it’s pretty fun to watch. The building was loud. It was electric. And for the fans that have bailed on us, we understand and we will work hard to win you back. This is a good first step.”

Saturday’s match will air at 7 p.m. on TCN.

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