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C.J. Sapong Returns To Union After DUI Arrest, Eligible To Play

By Kevin Kinkead

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- C.J. Sapong was a surprise participant at Thursday morning's training session.

The Union forward was taking part in his first practice since the May 1st DUI arrest that saw him removed from team activities and sidelined indefinitely.

Sapong recently returned from Malibu, California, where he was undergoing treatment as part of Major League Soccer's "Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health" (SABH) program.

"I was admitted into a treatment program," Sapong told CBS Philadelphia. "It was a little bit of assessment, as well as dealing with any issues I might have had. It was highly beneficial for me, because it kind of gave me a time away from the game and made me realize where I made mistakes, and areas I can improve in. It's an experience I'm definitely thankful for and will take all of the positives out of it. I'm definitely trying to get back with the team and build the trust back up, and I know that doesn't take just a couple of days. I'm willing to do the work."

Sapong has not yet appeared in a Philadelphia courtroom. According to a criminal docket, he was originally scheduled for a status hearing on May 11th. That hearing was pushed back to June 11th to allow Sapong to participate in the SABH program.

He's facing charges of DUI and reckless driving, stemming from an incident that has yet to be disclosed.

The docket lists the DUI charge as Sapong's first offense, and he may be eligible for "Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition", which is more commonly known as "ARD" in Pennsylvania legal terms. ARD generally involves probation and a possible license suspension based on the offender's blood-alcohol level.

With legal proceedings ongoing, Sapong couldn't comment further.

"It's still in the workings right now," he explained. "That's about all I'm comfortable with saying right now. When everything is said and done, I'll definitely be able to elaborate on it."

Union manager Jim Curtin echoed those sentiments.

"The league is handling that side of things," said Curtin. "They have a process that they are very hands-on with. We just step back and let them do their thing. Legally, I can't really speak for anything that's going on."

The good news is that Sapong is eligible to play right away, starting with Sunday's road game against New York. Before the arrest, he had seen increasing minutes as he recovered from a facial fracture sustained in the season opener.

"Fitness wise, I don't think I'm match fit yet," Sapong explained. "But I'm planning on doing extra work to make sure I get to the point where I can help the team again."

"He was able to maintain his fitness while he was away," Curtin added. "He had a person that was working with him out there in California. He's a guy who takes care of his body pretty well, as it is. Obviously you can do all of the things you want on your own, but soccer fitness is a lot different. We'll see where he is and he'll be available for selection this weekend."

Sapong has missed three games since his arrest. He last played in the road loss to Columbus, logging 90 minutes and assisting Eric Ayuk on the Union's loan goal.

He also started the April 19th game against New England, and scored his first goal of the season in the April 16th draw against New York City FC.

"He's a guy who, sort of like our team, has had a bit of a disjointed season, with the tough injury that he had, and then the off-the-field stuff," Curtin said. "It's great to have him back and welcome him back to the group We're excited to have him and we know what he brings to the table. He's a guy who is a hard worker and brings it every day in training, so a lot of guys had a smile on their face to have him back. He had a good day, a little bit rusty in the beginning, but all things considered he put in a good day's work."

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