Marco Pappa: The Seattle Sounders X-Factor

Sorry Raving Readers. I’ve been less than regular with my posts lately. It’s midterm time and us composition adjuncts are swamped. But I’m back today with a post on everyone’s favorite Guatemalan midfielder.

Despite the notoriety of the big name, big money strikers and a certain future Spur, Marco Pappa is the Seattle Sounders’ X-factor. Despite misuse in the pop culture vernacular, an X-factor can have either a positive or negative impact. For some reason, Marco Pappa directly influences the Sounders’ fortunes. Pappa’s been mostly positive for the majority of the season, it was mostly early on we saw his volatility.

Earlier in the season, we suffered from bipolar Pappa. He was either hard-charging into the attack or lackadaisically allowing his mark to pass him. Sunday’s game wasn’t this Pappa. He tracked back on Escobar. He was playing defense, something he’s been doing much more regularly. Unfortunately he over-hustled. Lazy Pappa would’ve never given up a penalty. I can’t bust his chops too much for that. What is Sigi supposed to say, Hey Pappa don’t try so hard next time? Long and short is, one minute we’re losing because of one player, Marco Pappa. But then, not long after the break, it was Pappa’s free kick that found Ozzie Alonzo’s big bald head for the equalizer. All of a sudden, we earned a result and road goal because of Marco Pappa.

Marco giveth and Marco taketh away. I used to do a plus/minus statistical study on this blog (and haven’t done it since… oh, the Portland comeback in early April). The impetus for the project was Marco Pappa. He offered a lot to the attack but was a glaring liability in defense. It was a simplistic study but the goal was to gather data to measure a (usually offensive) players contribution to the overall game.

I then expanded the plus/minus from just the simple hockey stat to adding in points (see my old post for the specifics) and called this PMP or plus/minus + points. I abandoned the plus/minus study for many reasons, one being soccer doesn’t lend itself well to stats. Yes, Americans love statistifying our sports, but soccer is much more qualitative than quantitive. You can easily see the story that numbers can’t tell. Prime example is one Marco Pappa.

Lately Pappa’s been mostly in the giving mood, providing key assist and goals. In the recent Los Angeles series, Pappa came off the bench and immediately contributed. If I was doing the plus/minus for those two games, Pappa would have a solid +4 +/- with 6 points giving him a crazy 10 PMP rating from just two games. What complicated this further was that Pappa is not usually subbed on (he hadn’t been subbed on since May 3rd. He’s been either been in the starting eleven or away on national team duty). Then back as a regular starter Sunday against Dallas, Pappa had only a 1 PMP (+/- net zero for being on the field when we gave up and got a goal, but earning 1 point for the assist). Pappa’s influence on the Dallas game was huge, not properly reflected in a 1 PMP. Already you can see the inadequacy of this stat in particular, and most stats in general, as they relate to soccer.

Marco Pappa truly is our X-Factor. Stats don’t properly quantify his contribution to this team. One way or another, Monday night against Dallas, Pappa will be the difference.

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