Mapp Rejuvenated with Philadelphia

25-year old a difference-maker in the last two matches

Justin Mapp has a goal and two assists in the club's last two matches.

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio/Sideline Photos

When
Philadelphia Union acquired midfielder Justin Mapp from the Chicago Fire on
July 26, the club knew they were getting a talented player. Mapp’s playing time
and productivity had decreased, with the U.S. international seeing less than half the minutes in 2009 as compared to 2008. But the 2006 MLS Best XI member was
only one season removed from registering eight assists, a mark he hit three
times over a four-season stretch. Not to mention he came to the Union at age 25 despite being in the league since 2002.

If the
last two matches -- a 2-1 comeback win vs New England in which Mapp set up Jack
McInerney for the equalizer and then tallied the winner in extra time, followed
by a 1-0 victory over Chivas Guadalajara that saw the same combination produce
the lone goal -- are any indication, the trade to Philadelphia was just what
Mapp needed to get back on track.

“He has been very, very
good,” Union Manager Peter Nowak said Wednesday night. “It is not just that
Justin was always very good with the ball at his feet, but also he tried to
find the little holes between the lines. He is very active. He goes inside, he
goes outside. This kind of game makes him very dangerous, and on top of this
he’s helping our defense too.”

Mapp
was criticized by some when he was with Chicago for not being a complete
player, but Nowak and his technical staff seem to have a strong understanding of how
to maximize the midfielder’s multitude of talents. 

“We try to encourage him that having the ball on his feet was always his game,
but that the full package is a little more demanding,” Nowak added. “We try to
show him that you can also be very active and sufficient in going forward,
interchanging positions, and finding good spots.

“We
put him in against New England as a midfielder and he scored from the center (of the
field). Today he made an assist almost from the right position, and we put him
as a left midfielder. This kind of play, interchanging positions and trying
to find the holes in the lines and pop up in different spots like we did with Sebastien
[Le Toux], I think it is going to improve his game tremendously.”

Mapp’s
vision and passing ability have helped Philadelphia earn two straight wins.
Evidently there’s a burgeoning chemistry between the fourth overall pick in the
2002 MLS SuperDraft and McInerney, the seventh overall selection in 2010.

“I just saw a little space, and he was making a diagonal run
into it,” Mapp explained. “I tried to weight the ball well and give him a
chance to get onto the end of it. Credit to him for the goal.”

While the sample size is still too small to thoroughly
assess Mapp’s impact on the Union, he certainly appears to be reinvigorated. It
helps that he’s comfortable in his new surroundings and excited about the opportunity that has been presented to him.

“You
know, I’m happy and trying to do my job,” Mapp said. “Good win tonight, good
atmosphere, and big game Saturday.”

Whether
starting or coming off the bench against Kansas City this weekend, Mapp will attempt to continue proving his worth for a Union side that has seen 12 different starters
in the midfield in just 21 league matches. If he continues to play like he has
the last two matches, one starting spot may rotate far less frequently.

Related: 

Watch: Union-Chivas Post-Match Interviews

Highlights: Union 1, Chivas 0