When Hot Time In Old Town Editor-In-Chief Sean Spence posted an article on January 3 pondering whether Frank Yallop and the Chicago Fire should pursue Marco Pappa, who had just been released from Dutch club SC Heerenveen, the prospect seemed a bit far-fetched. After all, the Fire had much more pressing needs in the back line and, due to MLS Roster Rules (section 2, category A), Pappa would be subject to the allocation process. The Fire would not be able to directly pursue him because of the transfer fee paid by Heerenveen when he departed the Fire.
Today, with the backline bolstered and rounds 1 and 2 of the SuperDraft behind us, the prospect no longer seems so far fetched. On January 20, Marco Pappa reportedly informed a Guatemalan Newspaper that he would be returning to the Chicago Fire on a two year deal.
In addition, Twitter has exploded with speculation on Pappa's return.
Marco Pappa regresa al Chicago Fire, firma por 2 temporadas. Hoy llega Julio Cesar Rambo De Leon para integrarse a Municipal— AntorchaDeportiva (@AntorchaDeporte) January 20, 2014
Acabo de colgar el telefono con el Jefe de redacción de la Web De Chicago Fire, traer a Marco Pappa no es facil a Chicago. #fb— Planeta Deportivo (@wijors) January 20, 2014
Reports seem to differ on whether Pappa will be returning to the Fire or whether he has signed with the MLS and is hoping to return to Chicago Fire. Regardless, there are clearly some legs to this rumor, and there is a possibility that the Men In Red will have Marco Pappa once again inside the friendly confines of Toyota Park.
With the confusing MLS allocation process, the Fire are not permitted to just re-sign Marco Pappa and welcome him back to the club. For this deal to go through, the Fire would have to work out a trade with one of the teams higher than them in the allocation process to bring him back.
Why is a trade necessary? Currently, the MLS allocation rankings (last updated on January 14, 2014) has the Philadelphia Union and Seattle Sounders sitting at the top in 1st and 2nd respectively while the Fire are in 8th. Seattle recently traded for 2nd spot in the allocation order prior to the Super Draft, and rumors were that the Sounders were moving into position to sign Marco Pappa themselves. The possibility of bringing in Marco Pappa was the main catalyst for the recent trade between Chicago and Seattle.
Are one of these clubs looking to re-trade their allocation slot to the Fire? If what Marco Pappa is saying to reporters is true about returning to Chicago, then a trade would have to happen. Getting Marco Pappa back to the Windy City would probably not come cheap. It is likely that a player would need to be moved to get Pappa, and it seems unlikely that allocation money and/or a draft pick (or two) would be enough to move up in the allocation order, but stranger things have happened. The Philadelphia Union also recently made a trade to move up in the allocation order to the top spot so they can sign Maurice Edu, but it sounds like that is not exactly going as planned. Perhaps the Union might be interested in making a deal.
Additionally, if the Fire were to bring back Pappa, they would likely need to part ways with a player on their roster anyways to free up cap space. Pappa had a base salary of $135,000 in 2012 and, even with his limited playing time overseas, will probably demand a larger salary. Combine that with the recent additions of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni, and the looming possible return of maligned forward Federico Puppo, and the Fire's salary cap situation begins to get incredibly tight.
About Marco Pappa - the Guatemalan midfielder first came to Chicago on July 30, 2008 after signing a year and a half deal. He made his MLS debut for the Fire on August 2, 2008. During his time with the Fire, Pappa made 36 appearances for the Fire between 2008 and 2009 and scored 5 goals. Between 2010 and 2012, Pappa made 76 appearances for the Fire and scored 21 goals. On August 30, 2012, the Fire agreed to transfer Pappa to Dutch club SC Heerenveen of the Eredivisie during the middle of the MLS season. Pappa made only 12 appearances for Heerenveen and played only one minute this season. His contract was dissolved by the Dutch club on January 3.