Pappa returns to face his former MLS club Chicago for the first time with the Sounders

Sounders FC vs. Chicago Fire

MLS Regular Season
Saturday, June 6; 5:30 pm PT; Toyota Park
TV/Radio: JOEtv (KZJO, channel 22/cable 10); KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; ESPN Deportes Radio, 1490 AM (Spanish)

Over the past few weeks, there has been a noticeable difference in the way Marco Pappa has interacted with his teammates on the field. His connections in the attack have been more precise and his play with the ball more daring.

More and more, Sounders FC is seeing the Marco Pappa that earned All-Star nods in 2010 and 2012 before signing a contract with Heerenveen in Holland, making the jump to the Eredivisie with an eye on European success. On Saturday, that improved play culminated in a one-goal, one-assist performance in a 4-0 demolishing of Real Salt Lake. It came at a great time for Pappa, as his next match will come in the building where he first made a name for himself in MLS—Toyota Park against the Chicago Fire.

"He's getting his rhythm and getting his confidence," Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. "It's good for him, returning home. That gives us a little extra motivation, too, to put on a good performance."

Pappa has started in the last five matches and his creativity with the ball has garnered the attention of the supporters that pack CenturyLink Field each match. They all erupted on Saturday when Pappa's twisting and bending free kick found its way to the back of the net for his first goal in Rave Green.

Fans and teammates alike are noticing the difference in his play and what it means for Sounders FC.

"It was tough. He was an All-Star and then in Holland he wasn't playing much. Now you're starting to see him hit his stride and it's fun to watch," Seattle captain Brad Evans said. "He's just going to continue to progress for us and continue to be dangerous."

The difference for Pappa comes in his fitness and familiarity.

With Heerenveen, he played in just 12 matches over his two seasons in the Eredivisie. He has already matched that total with Sounders FC and is getting more comfortable with his Seattle teammates as the season progresses.

"It's getting better and better each game. My fitness level is feeling better, my confidence with the group," Pappa said. "The most important thing is that the team is getting good wins."

The 26-year-old Guatemalan has helped Seattle reach the top of the Supporters' Shield standings at 9-3-2. That raging success with his new club helps keep Pappa from getting too nostalgic about visiting Chicago this week, where he accumulated 26 goals and 16 assists in 112 matches with the Fire.

"I'm really happy to be here. We're in a good spot and we have a good team," Pappa said. "Chicago is a big part of my career for sure, but business is business. I put on my Sounders jersey. This is my team now. I'm a professional player and I'm going to do my best over there. It's going to be nice to see some people, but the first thing we are thinking about is the game."

Kickoff in Saturday's match at Toyota Park is scheduled for 5:30 pm PT, with television coverage on JOEtv (KZJO, channel 22/cable 10).