CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – The Sounders are two games into their 2014 exhibition schedule, and they’re 2-0 after Thursday afternoon’s 2-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.
It’s a good start, but the club is far from being a finished product. Top players Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin just arrived in camp in nearby Tucson on Wednesday and have only gone through one training session. There’s a competition for No. 1 goalkeeper, and there are more new faces on the roster than in any previous offseason.
Midfielder Marco Pappa is one of those new guys, and has only started training with his first game action not expected until Sunday. Much is expected of Pappa, a native of Guatemala who played one season in Holland after five in Major League Soccer with the Chicago Fire.
Pappa is glad to be back in MLS, as his time with Dutch side SC Heerenveen was less than ideal. The Sounders moved up in allocation order to the No. 2 spot to be in position to acquire Pappa, who’ has been in rave green for less than a week.
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Pappa made just one start and 11 appearances in 2013 in Holland. His contract was terminated by the club before the new year, clearing the way for him to return to MLS.
He couldn’t go back to Chicago because the Fire had lost his MLS rights when it took a transfer fee from Heerenveen. Now Pappa wants to prove that he’s the player who scored 26 goals and logged 16 assists with the Fire while being named a league All-Star twice.
“It’s a challenge for me,” Pappa said. “I want to show that I can do some good things. It was a little strange of a situation for me in Holland. I did my work, but I never got my opportunity. I was prepared to stay in Holland and I still had time on my contract, but I decided I wanted to get out because it wasn’t good for my career.”
Pappa, a frequent callup to Guatemala’s national team, comes highly respected among the Sounders’ decision-makers. General manager Adrian Hanauer recalled Pappa bending a corner kick into the net against Seattle in 2012.
“We saw it as a great opportunity to add a quality player, good MLS experience, two-time All-Star, can give us goals and assists, creative, good left foot, can take set pieces for us, good guy,” Hanauer said. “He was always a challenge to play against.”
Pappa wasn’t sure what would happen in the allocation process. He only knew that he would learn from his bad experience in Europe.
“In the end I’m really glad because I know it’s a great opportunity with a new club,” he said. “People have always told me good things about Seattle and my teammates are great, and those are important things for me.”
Pappa’s family remains in Central America for now until the 26-year-old finishes the preseason and has time to find a place to live and get a car in the Seattle area. He’s been getting to know his teammates, having watched the Super Bowl with them.
He’s also working his way back into soccer shape.
“What we saw with Marco was from the time he finished at Heerenveen until here, he really hadn’t done a lot. So we didn’t want to stick him out too early,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “He seems to be gathering his fitness well.”
• Draft choice Fabio Pereira scored in the eighth minute and trialist Kevin Parsemain added the Sounders’ second goal in the 17th minute in Seattle’s win over Vancouver. Chad Barrett had the assist on Pereira’s goal, but Dylan Remick’s assist for Parsemain was even better. Remick made a strong run down the left side, jumped over a defender and crossed to Parsemain for the goal.
• The Sounders are in Tucson until Sunday. They’ll play the Portland Timbers on Saturday and the Whitecaps on Sunday, then head back to Seattle after Sunday’s match.
• Schmid said Yedlin and Evans will play Saturday or Sunday. The two had been with the U.S. national team until last weekend.