For Fire’s Marco Pappa, a season of hard work plus hate
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media June 22, 2012 9:14PM
Updated: July 24, 2012 9:51AM
Overnight, Fire midfielder Marco Pappa might have become the most hated player in Major League Soccer.
A member of the Guatemala national team, Pappa somewhat alienated the American-dominated MLS fan base June 12 in Guatemala City, scoring the tying goal off a free kick in the 83rd minute of a 1-1 tie with the United States. A win would have given the U.S. a stranglehold on
Group 1 in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
‘‘To be in the national team is always a special experience when you’re playing for qualification for the World Cup,’’ Pappa said. ‘‘I enjoyed being there, and my team, we played a couple good games.”
Pappa’s goal, which might have saved his country’s chances of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, marks about as high as a player can bounce after hitting rock bottom. Last year, he was benched by the Fire for perceived lack of effort. This season, the 24-year-old has played as well as any other Fire player, tallying three goals and three assists in 13 appearances. He plays a key role in building up play on the outside and has emerged as a strong All-Star candidate.
He will be a focal point for the Fire when it hosts the Columbus Crew on Saturday at Toyota Park. The Fire lost 2-1 in Columbus on May 26.
As for Pappa’s work ethic? It was apparent that was a non-issue in the Fire’s 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.
‘‘This year is going to be special for me. I’m thinking about my future,” Pappa said. ‘‘I need to be in good shape and try to do the best on the field for me and the team to be ready for whatever happens in the future.’’