Filling in for injured playmaker Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Fire midfielder Justin Mapp had some big shoes to fill when the Fire hosted Toronto FC on Saturday night. And while the Fire disappointed with a 2-2 tie that effectively knocked them out of the race for the Supporter's Shield, Mapp was a bright spot, looking dangerous and providing an assist in the draw.
"It's satisfying," said the 24-year-old of his performance. "It's good to get out there and get minutes and hopefully I'll be an integral part [of the team] down the stretch but we'll see. It was definitely good to get out there though, but at the same time it's disappointing that we dropped some points at home."
Fire Head Coach Denis Hamlett was also pleased by Mapp's performance.
"It hasn't been easy for him especially the last few games where he hasn't really played as much," said Hamlett. "But tonight I thought he went out and was aggressive from the get-go. He kept them off balance, he drew the double team and was able to slip balls in and got himself on the end of a few plays. I think all in all it was good for him. Hopefully he continues to push himself this week and [possibly] have another chance come Friday."
I thought Mapp did well on Saturday night as well (which is good, considering I named him Man of the Match) but I'm not sure if his performance will have too many implications on his playing time for the remainder of 2009. The Fire's first choice options on the wings, Marco Pappa and Chris Rolfe, have been entrenched in the starting 11 all year long and I would be a little surprised if Mapp broke into the first team (barring any injury reasons) this late in the year.
However, should Mapp get the start this Friday against L.A. (which would likely happen if either Chris Rolfe or Cuauhtemoc Blanco is unable to return from injury in time for the match) and perform well again, an argument could be made for him to play ahead of Marco Pappa. Sure, Pappa has been a mainstay of the starting lineup all season but he hasn't been playing too well lately and if Mapp turns it on at the right time, he could (however unlikely it may be...) overtake the young Guatemalan on the depth chart.
I'll likely have a short piece up this afternoon highlighting some of the stories headlining the world of soccer/MLS, so stay tuned for that.