Mapp Set to Face Former Club Saturday

Midfielder excited to see former teammates, but focused on earning three points

Just over three
months ago, Justin Mapp started and played nearly an entire match against his
future club. On Saturday, he’ll face his former club, the Chicago Fire, for the
first time.

Traded to the
Union on July 26, the former MLS Best XI member has assimilated admirably since
joining the expansion side, bringing a dimension the club had previously been seeking.
The 25-year-old has showcased an ability to beat opposing midfielders and
defenders along the flanks with pace and creativity, as well a capacity to cut
inside to create passing lanes and dribbling seams.

Over
Philadelphia’s last three matches in all competitions, Mapp has exhibited the form that prompted his status as one of the elite
midfielders in MLS in his early 20s. A game-winning goal and three assists in
less than two full matches worth of minutes appear to be early signs that Mapp
has rediscovered his swagger after seeing dwindling minutes as his tenure in
Chicago came to a close. Of note, Mapp’s numbers with the Union compare favorably in less
minutes to those of Freddie Ljungberg's with the Fire, who effectively brought in the Designated Player as a more
expensive replacement and presumed upgrade.

Despite the less-than-ideal ending, Mapp harbors no resentment towards his former club, instead
focusing on embracing the challenge of starting anew in the middle of a season.

“I enjoyed my
time in Chicago,” Mapp told philadelphiaunion.com on Wednesday. “I had great
teammates and great support there. You never expect to get traded, but in this
league it can happen at any moment. I wasn’t really all that shocked. Still,
switching clubs in midseason is not easy. Coming here, the guys were great in
making me feel an immediate part of the team. I have very fond memories of my
time in Chicago.”

Perhaps one
reason Mapp has adapted so well to his new surroundings is familiarity, as
counterintuitive as that may sound. The winger has found his former and current
sides to be comparable to one another in a number of ways, making the
transition relatively seamless. 

“Not a whole
lot,” he said when asked about any differences he’s found thus far. “It’s all
very similar. They are two very well run clubs from what I can see, from my
long time there and my short time here. Great fan bases for one thing. Not a
whole lot different from what I can see. I feel lucky because the coaching
staffs in Chicago and here in Philadelphia are great. I had a similar
experience with respect to teammates in both places.”

For a player
like Mapp, it didn’t take long to get used to the uptempo, attacking style of
play that has fast become a trademark of Manager Peter Nowak’s squad. That
doesn’t mean, however, that he didn’t leave close relationships behind.

So who is Mapp
looking forward to seeing on Saturday?

“Pretty
much all of them,” he said. “I had some form of relationship (with everyone),
obviously some longer than others. You know, Logan Pause and Calen Carr and
people like that, so it will be weird but good to see them. I definitely had
some good friends and still have some good friends from that team."

Personal
relationships aside, though, it’ll be all business for Mapp when the two clubs
step out on the pitch.

“I want to win
the game first,” he said. “We need the three points. I think after it’s over,
I’ll have a chance to catch up with some of the guys. They were great
teammates.

“I’ve been here
long enough now to get comfortable with everything. This game doesn’t really
have any extra special meaning to me. Yeah, I’m playing my former club. We need
to get a win, so it doesn’t really matter who it’s against. I just happened to
play for Chicago. It will be nice to see the guys. My goal now is to help the
Union win as many games as possible.”

Related:

Mapp Rejuvenated with Philadelphia

Mapp Admits Fire Trade Came as a Surprise

Union Acquire Midfielder Justin Mapp