If the Sounders can lock him down, Marco Pappa would be the perfect player to sit alongside Ozzie Alonso and Brad Evans in Seattle’s diamond midfield.
Welcome to one of the greatest weeks of the year as a Major League Soccer and Seattle Sounders FC fan — MLS SuperDraft week.
Now I’m in no way saying that everyone should call in sick Thursday at watch the draft. That’d be a solid couple of hours spent hearing a bunch of names you don’t know about. What really makes this week special is that the draft signifies the start of the 2014 MLS season.
Following the draft, teams will begin training camps, pre-season matches, roster moves and finally the start of the regular season — which just so happens to begin in Seattle as the Rave Green host the defending MLS Cup champions, Sporting Kansas City on March 8.
We’ve already seen more news and player movement this off-season than any in recent memory, both from the Sounders and from many other clubs in the MLS — but even after the draft is over moves will be made, and you should bet on Seattle being one of the teams making some late noise.
Where are the gaps?
Before addressing who the Sounders need to add to their roster in the coming weeks, we must first further analyze where the gaps are, and how badly they need filled.
This lineup, although nowhere near complete, is not empty at several positions. There should be no more forwards or center backs added to the roster before the season. 15 players on the current first team roster fit into those two positions (counting Clint Dempsey as a forward and Eriq Zavaleta as both). Meanwhile there are only three natural outside backs and no center attacking midfielder behind Dempsey. You could also argue that there’s no center defensive midfielder behind Ozzie Alonso, but Andy Rose fits there in my depth chart.
There’s also a serious lack in quality of outside midfielders, especially ones that can play in the diamond 4-4-2 formation we’re likely to see this season. Currently two of the three midfielders in that formation are set — Alonso and Brad Evans — but the third is not known, and many hope has yet to be signed.
The player in question, a left-sided midfielder with good vision, creativity and a willingness to defend is not Rose, Alex Caskey, Blair Gavin or Shalrie Joseph (who I’m sure will have his contract bought-out before the season) — instead it’s either a familiar name to the team, or a familiar name to the league.
Who’s the new guy?
Former Sounder Mario Martinez linked himself to a move back to Seattle from his club in Honduras a little over a month ago, but since then we’ve heard or seen nothing from the club that would make me think the left footer is coming back this season. I always liked Martinez, a crafty winger who could defend and deadly with his left foot from range or from set pieces. The problem with Martinez though was his unwillingness at times to do what was asked of him, his questionable decision making, his persistence in over-dribling and his constant comments regarding moving to a different team.
The second option, which only became known today, is former Chicago Fire midfielder Marco Pappa. Before a short-lived stint in the Netherlands, Pappa was a beast for the Fire, even scoring an “Olímpico” goal against Seattle.
At only 26 years old, Pappa has been a mainstay on a pretty bad Guatemalan national team, but has shown during his time in MLS the quality of player he is. And much like Martinez, his natural position is on the left side of midfield. In fact, Pappa has 64 MLS starts at LM, 32 at RM, 7 at CM, 1 at forward. He also 26 goals and 16 assists in his MLS career, averaging .45 points per 90 minutes — a figure any team would be happy with.
The problem in acquiring Pappa would be that the Sounders currently sit with the second spot in the MLS Allocation Order behind Philadelphia, who earlier today were rumored to sign USMNT midfielder Maruice Edu, but those talks may not be going so well due to Edu’s contract demands. So if Philly pass on Edu, that means Seattle would either have to trade for Philly’s pick, or wait until they decide to use it.
If the Union use their spot though and the Sounders are next in line, I’d expect an announcement quickly that Joseph has been bought out (clearing him off the cap) and a signing of Pappa, partially financed by Eddie Johnson’s Allocation Money windfall to keep Pappa’s salary cap hit low.
That would then allow the Sounders to search the MLS SuperDraft for outside back options, and a raw, speedy winger.
We’ll have more on the Pappa developments as the come along, as well as some coverage of the draft, depending on when I have to work Thursday. But regardless, we’ll have a recap of the Sounders moves after the draft is complete.
Today’s Starting XI — I’m going to throw a little curveball into the mix today. Last year the Sounders first Home Grown Player became an All Star, today the newest HGP gets the starting nod in my midfield — just an experiment. Also, the newly re-signed Lamar Neagle stars over Kenny Cooper — a move I think will be made a lot this season.
Jhon Kennedy Hurtado Chad Marshall
DeAndre Yedlin Leo Gonzalez
Brad Evans Ozzie Alonso Aaron Kovar
Obafemi Martins Lamar Neagle