Justin Mapp has been with the Union for less than a week, but you wouldn’t know it from speaking to his teammates. It’s clear that the club already has confidence in the dynamic wing midfielder, and it appears as though Mapp is enjoying the change of scenery following a mid-week trade that sent the midfielder from Chicago to Philadelphia in exchange for allocation money.
“It felt good, was good to get out there, great atmosphere,” he said. “I wish I could have done more with the couple chances that I had to help us get the win. But it felt good to get out there, we really had the support behind us and it feels good to be here.”
Mapp entered the match in the 56th minute of the Union’s 1-1 draw against the Revolution, a contest the club could have easily walked away from with three points. While Mapp was involved in a few scoring opportunities that didn’t materialize, it was apparent that the 26-year-old added a new dimension to the Union’s attack.
Once Mapp gets better acquainted with his teammates, the midfielder has a chance to make a significant impact in a Union midfield that now has an enormous amount of quality depth.
“I may have been a little rusty,” Mapp said after Saturday's match at PPL Park. “I have not really practiced a lot this week. I hope to get sharper here but it was good to get out there, get running with these guys. I wish we could have got the win but it was a pretty cool atmosphere.”
Union defender Jordan Harvey knows Mapp better than most and it’s evident that he welcomes the former Fire member with open arms.
"I've known Justin for a long time, since he was about 15 or 16,” said Harvey. We played on the U-17 National Team together. When we acquired Justin, I knew we were getting a really good all-around player. He knows how to play, and I knew he would be able to step right in and contribute to our club.
“He's going to be a valuable addition as we move forward from here. As we get more practice time together, he'll get even more comfortable. I think he did a great job for his first game with us.”
Mapp’s exact role remains to be seen, with Sebastien Le Toux, Fred and Stefani Miglioranzi occupying three of the four starting spots and recent signee Eduardo Coudet slotting into the lineup against New England in his first match with the club. Regardless, Mapp looks to be a key addition for an expansion side in need of a late season surge, and figures to see plenty of playing time in the second half of the season.
“That’s why we made a trade,” Nowak said after Mapp’s first appearance. “I think Justin has great potential. We looked at maybe giving him a start because Danny Mwanga was not 100 percent healthy today. We tried to manage that because we have a big stretch coming up with a lot of games. We gave Justin a run for 35 minutes, and we believe that going forward he’s going to help us. For us as a coaching staff, we have choices and options, and we’ll look at the lineup going forward. We have four games in two weeks, so that will be a help to us.”
The reinforced Union don’t have to wait long to continue working on their chemistry, with a home showdown against Eastern Conference leading Columbus looming on Thursday.
In the meantime, Mapp will get valuable training under his belt and have a little more time to get acclimated to his new surroundings. With his learning process already underway, Mapp is hoping to reemerge as one of the better outside midfielders in MLS with the Union.
“I did not know a whole lot about it,” Mapp said when describing his reaction to the trade news. “I knew it was a new expansion team. I knew Jordan Harvey from before. I was excited; when we played them in Chicago they actually dominated us. They have a good team and good players. I was excited about it and I am looking forward to it.”