After setting a personal record for goals in a season last year with 16, and starting this year with a goal and an assist, C.J. Sapong knows he is seen as a team-leading striker for the Union.
On Wednesday, he got a new contract to go along with the title. His previous deal was set to expire after this season; the new one runs through next year with a club option for 2020.
"It's good to have some type of security and know that your organization has faith in you," Sapong said. "I think I'm a player who should be getting double-digit goals every season, and with the last couple of seasons, I've been able to see the things that don't show up on the stat sheet that I've been doing well."
Sapong also received a raise that Union sporting director Earnie Stewart called "well-deserved." Though as is tradition in MLS, Stewart wouldn't say just how big it is.
"We thought it was very important to lock him down for a little bit longer," Stewart said. "C.J. has done an amazing job for us in the last couple of years, has progressed as a player and as a center-forward, and we're looking forward to continuing that."
Stewart praised Sapong's work ethic and hold-up play at the top of the attacking line, traits that have long been Sapong's signatures — and long scared opposing defenses. But scoring goals scares defenses most of all, and that's what took him to a new level last year.
"He's now proven and shown that he has progressed in front of the goal, what it means and where he needs to be," Stewart said. "I hope he continues to progress. The way he takes care of his body, the professional that he is, he has a long future in soccer. And he's still growing as a soccer player."
Sapong's good form last year won him a first U.S. national team call-up since 2012 in November. He won another invitation in January. That raised questions from some observers who wondered whether a 27-year-old should be a national team regular when the next World Cup is four years away. With so many young prospects in the pipeline and needing minutes, shouldn't they get priority?
Stewart, who played 101 times for the national team from 1990 to 2004, disagreed.
"The national team is there to win games and get to the World Cup, and once you get to the World Cup, you make another decision about the roster," he said. "It doesn't really matter how old they are as long they can get the job done."