C.J. Sapong set the Union franchise record for most goals scored in a season and is being rewarded with a trip to Portugal next week. His club teammate Alejandro Bedoya will join him there in the city of Leiria.
US Men’s National Team interim coach Dave Sarachan announced a youth-heavy roster for next week’s road friendly against the Portugal national team. But amongst those fresh faces will be a couple of relative old-timers in the 28-year-old Sapong and the 30-year old Bedoya.
With 65 caps, Bedoya’s call-up was hardly a surprise. But Sapong has spent little time with team, with only 2 caps and no call-ups since 2012. He now gets a chance to continue his goal scoring ways on the international stage. And he has earned it, with his 16 goals being one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing Union season.
To say the USMNT has had a disappointing year would be an understatement. Their loss to Trinidad and Tobago in the final game of the CONCACAF Hexagonal cost them a berth in next year’s FIFA World Cup. It didn’t take long for head coach Bruce Arena to resign, with Sarachan taking over until a permanent replacement can be made.
As of right now, the USMNT have no competitive matches to look forward to in 2018 (though that could change if the CONCACAF Nations’ League gets going next year). But after that crushing defeat, U.S. Soccer quickly scheduled this friendly match against Portugal. Like the USMNT squad, Portugal’s squad will be light on regulars, but even their B-team will be a good test for the young Americans.
Like many USMNT fans, I was disgusted by the performance that the Yanks put on on in the Hex. With the talent on that team, there was no reason that they should have needed a result in that last match against T&T. And yet they did, and they couldn’t even pull off a draw against a CONCACAF minnow.
Change is clearly needed. And the Americans are going to have plenty of time to evaluate players before the next World Cup cycle begins. Sapong is no youngster, and he’ll be 33 by the 2022 World Cup tournament. That’s not necessarily too old though, and if he wants a trip to Qatar, he’s going to need to take advantage on every look the USMNT affords him.
The match against Portugal is on November 14. The bitter taste from the Hex disaster is still lingering in my mouth, and I had no intention of spending any of my precious time paying attention to this friendly. With Sapong and Bedoya there, I might actually bother to watch. Congratulations to C.J. and Ale, and good luck to them on Tuesday.