Sounders’ Marco Pappa shrugs off error, reclaims job

One of the most obvious errors of this Seattle Sounders season came from one of the club’s most credentialed players.

Marco Pappa is a two-time MLS All Star and has 30 caps for the Guatemala national team. Still, he is naturally eager to make a good impression with his new teammates and fans in his first season with the Sounders.

But in just his second Seattle appearance, he made the most memorable blunder of the Sounders’ 2-1 loss to Toronto FC, rolling a pass into a great green void, where Jermain Defoe swooped in and turned the gift into what proved to be the winning goal.

“I don’t really think about that,” Pappa said this week. “Soccer players, we can make some mistakes, but the thing is how we’re going to react to those mistakes. You see, each game we’re always making mistakes, and we’re always looking forward to being better and better. But at the end of the day, it is how we react to those things.”

Pappa apparently reacted well. He found himself anchored on the bench for the next two matches, but he appeared in the next four matches and has started the last two. In the 4-1 win over Colorado last weekend, Pappa produced what coach Sigi Schmid said was his best performance as a Sounder.

“Me and my teammates, we are better and better knowing each other and the way we’re playing,” Pappa said. “I think that’s pretty important. I’m feeling better now — my fitness also. I’m feeling I am nearing my real level.”

The club was sold enough on Pappa’s “real level” to use its allocation pick to acquire him early in preseason training.

Over five previous MLS seasons with the Chicago Fire, he had produced 26 goals and 16 assists over 112 appearances. In 2010 he led Chicago with seven goals, and one of those was selected MLS goal of the year.

“Great guy,” said Seattle defender Jalil Anibaba, who also played with Pappa in Chicago. “He lifts the spirits off the field: very lighthearted guy and fun to be around. And obviously on the field, it’s clear what he can do.”

Pappa left Chicago to play the 2012-13 season with SC Heerenveen in the Dutch first division, where he made one start and provided two assists. The club released him in January.

“He came to us having had a stint in Holland that wasn’t as successful as he wanted it to be,” Schmid said. “I think for him it was getting back into the rhythm of playing and playing all the time. … I think he reacted really well: came off the bench, played really well and as a result put himself back on the field.”

It figured that a short time on the bench and playing with the Sounders Reserves wouldn’t shake Pappa. At age 26, he’s already had a decade to understand the ups and downs of professional soccer.

Pappa joined CSD Municipal in his native Guatemala at the age of 16. At 18, he wore his country’s colors for the first time in a 1-0 loss to the United States. At 19, he set off for the USA, taking his career to MLS.

“I came out without family, so the first year was kind of difficult,” he said. “But then you start to have some communication, you start to adapt to the city and the people there. I think it was really important for me as a human person first to grow up in many different ways. For sure I was missing home many times. At the end of the day, it is a choice you make for personal reasons, and now I’m very happy. … When I look backward at my life I see many good steps, so I feel proud sometimes.”


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