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Fire Sign C.J. Sapong [UPDATED]

The MLS vet offers some much-needed attacking depth

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Philadelphia Union Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Fire announced earlier today that they had acquired veteran forward CJ Sapong from the Philadelphia Union.

The Fire are paying up to $450k in allocation money to make the trade happen. Sapong is under contract for 2019 with a club option for 2020.

Fire GM and president Nelson Rodriguez said that Sapong adds to the team’s attacking repertoire.

“CJ brings a different skill set to our attacking options,” Rodriguez said. “We can now be more varied in how we attack.”

Sapong has spent eight seasons in Major League Soccer, with his first campaign in 2011 earning him Rookie Of The Year honors. Between his four seasons with Sporting Kansas City and his four seasons with Philadelphia, the 30-year-old has made 233 MLS appearances (with 177 of those being starts), scoring 56 goals and tallying 23 assists. He’s won an MLS Cup and a US Open Cup, both with SKC. He also has four caps with the USMNT, with his last appearance coming in a friendly against Portugal in 2017, where he earned an assist.

Head coach Veljko Paunovic echoed Rodriguez’ comments about Sapong offering more attacking options.

“CJ is a player who adds athleticism and a high work rate on both sides of the ball,” Paunovic said. “We also believe that he will increase our scoring capabilities. We’re looking forward to working with him this season.”

On the one hand, the Fire have more pressing needs in the squad that need to be filled. The back line, in particular, desperately needs reinforcements. On the other hand, the team was definitely lacking in forward depth. Before today, it was unclear who, if anyone, would be able to step up if Nemanja Nikolic suffered an injury. Despite showing some promise in preseason, Fabian Herbers and Amando Moreno still have some big question marks hanging over them. Elliot Collier still needs another year in USL, probably, while Diego Campos has yet to nail down a spot in the senior team.

So while it wasn’t the most urgent need in the squad, CJ Sapong does solve some problems for the Fire. If he can contribute this season— and the club can sign some defenders to give the new-look forward line some breathing room— this team might not be terrible.

UPDATE 1:10pm CT: An earlier version of this article said that the Fire were paying up to $400k in allocation money. We cited the club’s press release when we published that figure. Other sources, including Jonathan Tannenwald, are reporting that the top line figure is $450k. We’ve edited the article to reflect that reporting. Hot Time In Old Town regrets the error.