Veteran midfielder Justin Mapp had been a fixture of the Fire starting 11 for years. Unfortunately for the 24-year-old Mapp though, this year - to say the least - has been quite different. Mapp - who at this point last year had started every game for the Fire - has gotten the starting nod in only eight matches this year and he is - understandably so - feeling a little frustrated with his lack of playing time.
"Yeah I mean I've played a lot in the past but at the same time you got to accept that if [coming off the bench] is the role that coach wants me to do then I'm going to do that to the best of my ability," said Mapp when I spoke with him after the Fire's 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake on August 1st. "Putting everything aside we're here to win games so whatever my role is I'll be happy with it."
Mapp does figure to see some increased playing time with all of the injuries the Fire are currently dealing with, and he is hoping to make the most of his time on the pitch. "Yeah you obviously want to make the most of it," said Mapp. "It's not always easy if you don't play for three four weeks to go in and do your best but you obviously want to be as sharp as you can so just try to make an impact and help the team. Whether that's coming off the bench, starting, or whatever I just go out there and do the best I can."
It's good to see that Mapp is keeping a positive attitude (or at least showing one...) about his situation and I can assure you that he is working hard to earn more opportunities. Unfortunately for Justin though, the Fire's current options on the wing - Chris Rolfe and Marco Pappa - have been playing well all season long and - barring injury (knock on wood...) - I don't see him replacing either of them in the starting lineup.
If Mapp is to supplant either Rolfe or Pappa as a Fire outside mid, he will need to return to his 2008 form that saw him notch 3 goals and 10 assists in all competitions for the Fire. Until then though, don't expect to see Justin in a much bigger role than he is occupying right now.