A Closer Look: Marco Pappa's Second Half Struggles

Chicago Fire v New York Red Bulls

Thirty-two minutes into the Fire's 2009 home opener against the New York Red Bulls, Fire midfielder Marco Pappa lit up a windswept, rain soaked Toyota Park crowd when he smashed a 20 yard half volley off the post and into the back of the net. Pappa's goal - which would prove to be the game winner - set the tone for a fantastic start to his 2009 campaign, and gave fans hope that the 21-year-old Guatemalan would emerge as the Fire's next big-time offensive threat.

After the first three months of the season, it looked as if Pappa was well on his way to becoming that 'big-time threat' - and he had the numbers to prove it. The left-footed winger had notched five goals and an assist through the Fire's July 4th victory at Colorado and he showed no signs of slowing down.
But in the three months since that Independence Day win, Marco has hit a major drought - registering only two assists and no goals in his 15 games since.

So, what is the reason behind Pappa's extended slump? According to Fire Head Coach Denis Hamlett there have been a variety of factors, starting with opposing teams adjusting to his game.

"People figured out that he's a good player and teams are now paying a little more attention to him," said Hamlett. "Whenever he gets the ball there's a double team that's coming real quick so it makes it a little harder for him."

Another reason behind Pappa's late season slump has to be fatigue. Pappa - whose 26 starts is tops on the Fire - is in his first full professional season and it looks like it has taken a physical toll on him.

"This is his first full season where it has been a grind from day one," said Hamlett. "It's been a nine month long [season for him] and he's a guys that when he's on the field he's up and down. It's not like he picks his moments and takes breaks. He's always going at a 9 or a 10."

Despite his recent struggles, Hamlett is still confident that Pappa can be a dangerous player down the stretch.

"You hope now that the extra week we've got here allows him to recharge his batteries and get ready for the final push," said Hamlett. "I still have confidence in the kid."


My view on Pappa's slump is - for the most part - in line with Hamlett's. It is definitely true that opposing teams have keyed in more on Marco and it's certainly understandable that he is feeling a bit fatigued at this point in the year - and both of those factors would hamper any player's contribution.

However, I believe that there is another problem that has contributed to Pappa's ongoing goalless drought - namely, his complete reliance on his left foot. While he is most definitely a skilled player that can beat defenders from either side of the field, when the time comes to hit a strike at goal Pappa almost exclusively uses his left foot. While this one-footedness can at times be harmless, it has really hurt the Fire in recent matches. You don't even have to look past the Fire's most recent match (a 1-0 loss at the Galaxy) to find multiple chances that Pappa could have finished had he not been apprehensive about using his right foot.

Putting the goalless streak aside though, Pappa has really been a solid contributor to the Fire all year long. He has proven to be dangerous on the attack and I would love to see Frank Klopas shell out some cash this offseason (when Pappa's loan expires...) and buy him outright from Guatemalan team CSD Municipal.


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  • this isnt baseball where they play everyday,,the only thing that can burn you out, and this is coming from someone who has never played soccer, must be training. when i was his age a bad day at work usally came from a long night on the town.

  • I play soccer, I'm 12 so seventy minute halves, and I play the whole game. I do not get tired until after the game, and then I am back the next day. After hard training, I will occasionally be sore next day, but that's the end of it. I think they are training him too hard if this happens to a professional midfielder, as I am one

  • It is his first proper season playing as a senior. Got to think he's only 21 and his first season too, also the position he playing on the wing take alot of energy and stamina to get forward and support the attack and track back to help out the defense.
    Of course players get tired physicaly and mentaly, look at Liverpool Rafa Benitez is always rotating his players so they can rest and always stay sharp, maybe thats what they should have done with Pappa early on in the season sub him out at 60-70 mins of the game.

  • It hasn't only been his reliance on attempts at goal with his right foot but opposing defenders have also figured out that if you make him go right on the dribble he can be easily dispossessed or he'll try to force his left side by running into another defender.

    Does Hamlett's comment that people are paying more attention acknowledge this problem or is he just writing the issue off to double teams and fatigue?

    I'm still not convinced that DH even recognizes there's a weakness with his right foot.

  • Well Columbus clnches the top spot in the East, this is very disappointing , remember how the Crew got off to a bad start ( I think it was something like 0-5-2 and the Fire at one point was 8 ahead of them?? The Fire had a chance to put this team away early when they traveled to Columbus against a very despreate Crew team and the Fire had to fight back for just a tie. The Crew still struggled for a while after that but at the same time the Fire was finding every way possible to turn sure home wins into ties continualy squandering away points.
    There is no way that with 2 games to go this team is not in first place but even worse they have not locked a playoff spot up yet.

  • sam,,,,where's that feel good feelin...tell doug how its goin to be ok...

  • hey random question but does anyone know of any good mens soccer teams and leagues around the south burbs of chicago or even in the city? Looking for a decent standard.

  • Zeus,

    There's a decent over 30 league in the south burbs and northwest Indiana that I've just recently discovered.

  • In reply to cesba:

    do you have to be over 30 to play haha

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