Marco Pappa has been all smiles during Sounders FC preseason training camp. It’s because 2014 was perhaps the best year of his career, one that resulted in multiple individual awards due to his performance on the club and international stages.
Pappa is happy in Seattle. And now that he’s in his second season with the Rave Green, the 27-year-old midfielder is even more comfortable than before.
“It’s good to be back with my teammates. Last year was my first year, and now I feel like a part of the Sounders family,” Pappa said on Thursday, the first day of Sounders FC training camp at Mt. San Antonio College. “I hope we can build good things for the year.”
One year ago, Pappa never could have envisioned being in such a favorable situation.
In January of 2014, the Guatemalan was headed back to MLS after a frustrating stint with SC Heerenveen of the Netherlands’ first division. Pappa made just one start in 11 total appearances before he and the club mutually agreed to part ways midway through his second season.
Sounders FC used its No. 1 pick in the MLS Allocation Order to acquire Pappa. Though he was back in a league that he thrived in with Chicago from 2008-2012, Pappa had a bit of a rough start to his tenure in Seattle. He didn’t score in his first three months with the club, and Head Coach Sigi Schmid often used him as a reserve rather than as a starter.
When Pappa’s free kick against Real Salt Lake on May 31 found the top corner, he slid to his knees and screamed as he looked up at the sky. It had been almost two years since he scored in club competition.
From there, things started going Pappa’s way. First he scored in both of Seattle’s victories over Portland in July. Then right after recording the game-winning assist against Colorado in August, Pappa scored four goals in four matches for the Guatemalan National Team at the Copa Centroamericana. Finally, Pappa’s heroic two-goal performance against the LA Galaxy in the regular-season finale clinched Seattle’s first Supporters’ Shield.
Pappa finished the year with seven goals and eight assists across all competitions.
“I feel like an important part of the team. [My teammates] made me feel like that, which is a good thing,” he said Thursday. “I hope that will be good for my confidence this year, and that I can show better things for myself and the team.”
Two weeks after his pair of goals clinched the Shield, Pappa was named FutbolMLS.com's Latino del Año 2014, an award given to the top Latino player in MLS. A month later he was named MLS Player of the Year at the inaugural Univision Sports Awards.
The first year of Pappa’s return to MLS was a memorable one for both he and Sounders FC. With the club’s next campaign right around the corner, Pappa is hoping for more of the same in 2015.
“I think we can do better things this year than last year, because we know each other more,” he said. “Now it’s time to show that on the pitch.”