They say that it is every player's dream to play for their country. Marco Pappa is no exception. The only problem is that his dream is the Chicago Fire's nightmare. Follow me after the break to learn the doomsday scenario that could see Marco Pappa miss all six Fire MLS games that are scheduled in June... and why this might be actually good for the best for both parties involved.
Guatemala released their 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup roster over the weekend. Marco Pappa's name was featured among 22 other individuals that make up Guatemala's finest. Philadelphia Union forward Carlos Ruiz also made the list (yes, that same Carlos Ruiz that ripped the collective heart of Fire nation out with his 'not impossible, just a bit unlikely' strike this past Saturday).
Congratulations to Marco Pappa. It is an honor and a privilege to represent your country on any level. It is a true testament to Pappa's skill. We are fortunate to get to see him play and be a part of the Chicago Fire. Everyone here wishes you the best in all of your trials and tribulations in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup competition. Now that we have that out of the way, let me say Marco, you are killing me Smalls.
While Marco Pappa is serving international duty with Guatemala, he will not be playing in any games for the Chicago Fire. Guatemala's Gold Cup schedule starts with three Group B games on June 6th, June 10th, and June 13th. That means that Pappa will definitely miss the June 8th game that opens Sporting Kansas City's Livestrong Sporting Park and the June 12th game in Columbus against the Crew. We'll get confirmation soon but I can't imagine Pappa would play the June 4th home game against the Seattle Sounders. It's just too close to the June 6th Group opener for Guatemala.
It gets worse because 8 of the 12 teams in Gold Cup move on to the Second Round of the tournament. Guatemala will advance if they win or finish second in their group.
Even if you aren't familiar with international soccer, you can probably tell that's not exactly the Group of Death in the mix. If Guatemala finishes 3rd in that group, they just have to be better than one of the other 3rd place teams to move on.
Being better than 3 of those 8 countries shouldn't be too hard for Guatemala. The bar is quite low. I would expect Marco Pappa to participate in the Quarterfinals:
|June 18||Group A runner-up||5:00 PM||Group B runner-up|
|Group A winner||8:00 PM||Group B/C third-place|
|June 19||Group B winner||3:00 PM||Group C runner-up|
|Group C winner||6:00 PM||Group A/B third place|
The Chicago Fire travel to Gillette Stadium to take on the New England Revolution on Saturday, June 18th and then Real Salt Lake comes to Toyota Park on Wednesday, June 22nd. A Quarterfinals appearance would eliminate Pappa from the Revolution game and put the Real Salt Lake game into question. Would you want to start Marco Pappa on 3 or 4 day rest if he has played 4 games in 13 days before that? If Guatemala advanced to the Semifinals, that Gold Cup game would take place on the same day as the Fire/RSL game.
|June 22||Winner Quarterfinal 1||7:00 PM||Winner Quarterfinal 2|
|Winner Quarterfinal 3||10:00 PM||Winner Quarterfinal 4|
Last but not least, if Guatemala make a Cinderella run to the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final, Marco Pappa would miss the Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls game at Toyota Park on June 25th.
|June 25||Winner Semifinal 1||9:00 PM||Winner Semifinal 2|
Where do we go from here?
Marco Pappa will definitely miss two games, very likely miss three or four games, maybe miss five games and not impossibly but just a tad bit unlikely miss all six games in June. Pappa's absence will be missed because he is tied for the team lead in goals scored with four but he also is the only player to have played all 900 minutes in every Fire MLS regular season game this year. The depth chart at LM drops off to Davis Paul and Bratislav Ristic. The prospect of Marco Pappa is a little scary to say the least.
In darkness, there is hope though. We might have a mini-Ewing Theory test on our hands. In the Ewing Theory, a team loses its best player and the team stops relying on that player to lead the team. The team ends up performing better to the chagrin of all of the 'experts'. Right now you could ask if the Chicago offense is going through Marco Pappa to the detriment of the overall team performance. It's not an opinion I personally share but I have started to see it pop up in more circles. Kevin McCauley of the Allocation Order had some negative reviews of Marco Pappa in a recent article.
I actually went into the research for this article with the hypothesis that Pappa's lack of defensive ability is overstated by fans with a footy value system that centers around work rate and players contributing in multiple phases of play, but my hypothesis was proven false. Pappa's defensive liabilities are a problem in a 4-4-2 setup, which is what the Fire played in this game. The Fire needed Pappa to be a two-way player.
I will agree that Marco Pappa is a very offensive orientated player. You don't see him making a lot of defensive stops. McCauley raises the idea that Carlos de los Cobos might be coaching Pappa to stay up front and not draw back. These Guatamela Gold Cup games will show how a different coach coaches Pappa. What is Pappa's true nature? It is interesting to note that Marco Pappa is listed as a forward on Guatemala's Gold Cup roster. I have been curious to see Pappa play up top and Guatemala might just do the experiment for us. Meanwhile, the Fire will be forced to do some experimenting of their own playing multiple games without their marquee star. June might be really ugly but it might prove to be some powerful medicine Marco Pappa and the Chicago Fire both need to advance to a higher level. Let's go Guatemala... or Grenada if you totally disagree.