Last season wasn’t what Justin Mapp would call an ideal year.
The Fire midfielder, who had become so ingrained in Chicago’s starting lineup since he was acquired by the team as an 18-year-old in 2003, was mostly relegated to the bench last year, only appearing 21 times (only 11 of which were starts) in the MLS regular season.
“It was tough,” Mapp said of his 2009 season. “As a competitor, you want to be out there to help your team. You think you can, so it’s tough, but that’s sports and sometimes that’s how it goes.”
This year though, things have been different for Mapp. He has played in all five games under new head coach Carlos de los Cobos and started the last two matches – both Fire wins. Mapp is thriving in de los Cobos’ 4-5-1 formation, looking good – and gaining confidence – on his familiar left wing.
Mapp said that he hasn’t changed his habits or his mind set at all, only that he’s taking advantage of his opportunities better this season compared to 2009.
“I don’t think I’m doing anything different,” said the 26-year-old Mississippi native. “[I’m using] the same approach. I’m just trying to make the coaches put me on the field. Hopefully I’m doing that and [hopefully I’ll] be consistent and continue to do that and take advantage when I get my minutes. I don’t think it’s anything different, I think it’s just continuing to work hard in training.”
Despite his good start, Mapp still has some work to do to keep his spot in the starting 11. Additions from the transfer market or internal changes caused by players coming back from injury could place Mapp on the bench yet again. But, regardless of any transfer rumors or pending internal returns from injury, Mapp has a clear sense of focus.
“I just want to start each game and help the team win,” he said.