Pappa’s Pluses and Minuses
Saturday was rough, almost inexcusable for Marco Pappa. I’m not giving up on him yet. I’d love to see him settle down and get with the program. He is talented and what he brings, creativity and vision, are really needed in the midfield. But I’m starting to fear that Marco Pappa is fulfilling the Jhon Kennedy Hurtado archetype: the talented player who isn’t 100% focused. JKH was too damn talented not to play, but he was a liability on the pitch. He just wasn’t trustworthy. JKH is a former MLS Best XI defender. He has all the talent and tools and when he was on, he could SHUT DOWN Robbie Keane. When he was off… he was a welcome mat to the back of the net. Every time I saw him in the eleven I was nervous. Now I’m afraid Pappa could turn out the same way.
I was (and am) excited to see Pappa play. He is creative and he has good vision. In the preseason he looked like a younger, goofy-footed Mauro Rosales. But in the last two games he has shown little interest in defense and has been terribly sloppy with the ball.
We brought him in for his creativity and potential contributions to the offense. But one of my problems with his game is his propensity for the long volley. He loves the rocket. He took three shots from 30 yards out in the first thirty minutes Saturday. Sure, one of his volleys took a mean deflection and forced Julio Cesar to make a save, but he is still forcing the issue.
Granted, sometimes you have to pull the trigger. The 2013 Sounders had a fear of commitment, as too few players were willing to just take an exploratory swing. The old saw rings true, you don’t score goals unless you take shots. However there is a lot of attacking talent on this year’s squad. Be patient and build up to a quality shot, involve your teammates, Pappa. You have Oba, Dempsey, Cooper and Neagle, all proven goal scorers, around you. Trying those selfish volleys just takes a lot of money and talent out of the play.
In early February, the Sounders were perched atop the Allocation Order, considering Pappa when Sounder@Heart released a scouting report from his days with Chicago: he forces long-range shots, worries about his own highlights at the expanse of the team, gets sloppy… etc. We rolled the dice when we acquired Pappa. We knew the man had weaknesses. I was hoping we were getting a more mature player, one who was humbled in the Eredivise (the Dutch league). But we’re two games into his Rave Green career and we’re seeing a tour de force of all his bad, bad habits.
Sigi is backing Pappa. In a recent interview he cited Pappa’s lack of playing time in the Netherlands as cause for his disjointed play. I want to believe that after a year of barely playing Pappa is just not in the flow of the game, and that the speed and high stakes are overwhelming him. I want him to be one helluva creative midfielder.
Best case scenario, Sigi coaches Pappa up. He is the new Mauro and he connects the midfield to the forwards and the offense blossoms.
Worst case scenario, Pappa proves to be too much of a liability. If we can’t trust him to be in the eleven, what are the potential lineups? Will Pineda join Ozzie behind Neagle, Dempsey and Evans in a 4-2-3-1? But Neagle hasn’t been playing so hot. Does he need to be a forward, and if so, will he ever get time over Oba or Cooper? Can Cooper play as a wide mid? I sure don’t see him as a box-to-box type. I worry that if Pappa doesn’t work out, setting the lineup gets tricky. The pessimist in me worries we have all the pieces to the wrong puzzle (and I am not waiting for a magical midseason replacement to set everything right). In this scenario, I’d be tempted to see If Chicago is still interested. Maybe we can get some deep-dish pizza and a stick of Wrigley’s for him?
Thinking of Pappa and his contributions to the Sounders 2014 fortunes, I noticed that he was off the pitch when we created both our goals (Barrett’s against SKC and Dempsey’s Saturday), and on the pitch for both goals we took (and 100% responsible for one of them). The plus/minus stat in hockey is used to measure a player’s impact on the difference between their team’s total scoring versus their opponent’s. The frequent shift switching in hockey, and smaller lineup creates a more tangible correlation of players to goals for and against.
Checkout this plus/minus chart of the team. I’ll update this throughout the season.
What does this all mean? The Sounders are at a cumulative 0 goal differential. A player like Chad Marshall who has played every minute of both games has a 0 +/-. That is the mean. Anyone higher or lower is off the team mean. Instant analysis? Should Okoli should play more? Barrett too? That Neagle and Pappa should play less? All of these cocnlusions are too soon and too easy. Hopefully if we keep track of this, maybe, like science, we can extrapolate something by year’s end.