Marco Pappa

A Different Role

It’s been a while since Marco Pappa’s hit the back of the net for the Fire. Sunday’s match is a day short of marking three scoreless months for the Guatemalan international, as he last tallied in a 1-1 draw vs. New York on June 26.

Just as much as the goals have been absent, so have the patented back flips that come right after he scores them.

Part of Pappa’s current goal scoring form has coincided with the mid-summer arrivals of Sebastian Grazzini and Pavel Pardo, dictating a formation switch in the midfield. The result has been more defensive responsibility for the Guatemalan but it’s one that he’s done well to accept.

“It depends how you want to see the game,” Pappa told Friday. “We’re playing with three guys behind Sebastian so I have to help out Pavel and Logan [Pause] defensively more. I’m pushed a little further back than normal so when I try to go forward and attack it’s not quite as easy. It’s the formation that’s working best for the team right now and for me, I have no problem playing wherever the coach wants me, wherever helps us win games.”

As odd as it is to hear Pappa playing a defensive role, he’s done a good job. The man known more for his bombing efforts from outside the penalty area is learning to play as more of a box-to-box midfielder and showing effort on both sides of the ball that hadn’t always been seen since joining the Fire in 2008.

Even with less offensive production, keeping Pappa in the lineup is a necessary move as just his presence makes the midfield more dangerous, forcing opponents to key on more than just Grazzini. His ability on free kicks and shots from long distance make him a dangerous weapon to have on the field.

National Team Fatigue?

[inline_node:16051]Aside from a more defensive position, some, including interim head coach Frank Klopas have pointed to Pappa’s extra games and travel for his national team as a source of fatigue for the player.

A key part of the Guatemalan side, Pappa played for los Chapines during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup and helped his country open qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with two wins earlier this month against Belize and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He’s almost certain to be called for return matches against both nations on October 7 and 11.

 “I’m not thinking about being tired,” said Pappa. “Every game I’m ready to go and if I’m tired I’m not thinking about that. I’m trying to do my best for the team. The extra games and travel aren’t a problem for me as it relates to the Fire. I will always do my best for this team and the most important thing isn’t me scoring goals, its gaining points.

“Sometimes it’s frustrating when you’re used to scoring but if I’m helping the team in other ways, if we’re winning games and I’ve played well defensively, that’s enough for me.”

Three Points a Must

As the Fire continue their push to make the 2011 MLS Cup playoffs, they’ll know that Saturday’s results won’t make things any easier. Houston, New York, DC United and Chivas USA were all victorious in their weekend fixtures, meaning the Fire will need a win Sunday afternoon vs. New England to stay within six points of the final playoff spot.

A traditional rival, Pappa knows what a Fire match vs. the Revolution means, but one this late in the season with Saturday’s results known, the midfielder acknowledged that three points at home Sunday is absolutely crucial.

“We’re looking forward to the game. We’re at the point in the season where we have to win matches, draws are wasted games at this point -- they don’t help us. Sunday we’re playing at home against a big rival, we know games against New England are physical and usually very tight. They’re down a little bit but this match means something for them as well. Its a game we need three points from.”

If Pappa needs some small inspiration for offensive production, he need only look at the contribution of Diego Chaves in last Saturday’s 3-2 win over Chivas USA. The team’s leading scorer at the start of the season, Chaves hasn’t tallied in the league since April. His 80th minute substitution proved invaluable for Klopas’ side against Chivas, as the Uruguayan slotted a perfect ball into the box for Patrick Nyarko whose final pass found Dominic Oduro for the winner.

Jeff Crandall is the Team Writer for the Chicago Fire. Follow him on Twitter @JefeCrandall.