Justin Mapp arrived in Philadelphia on July 26, 2010 when the Union acquired him mid-season from the Chicago Fire.
Now, many of the players who embraced the 26-year-old midfielder are no longer here themselves.
It can be dizzying at times, but that’s the reality of professional sports. While the Union have lost a number of players, the club bolstered their roster with the likes of Carlos Ruiz, Brian Carroll, Carlos Valdés and Faryd Mondragón, all of whom are expected to start.
“Yeah, we have made a whole lot of changes, but we all have so much trust in the technical staff and the organization,” Mapp said.
After two days off in Philadelphia, the Union departed on Wednesday for a 16-day training camp in Greece.
“I think between the drafts and signings, we have done a lot of good things,” Mapp continued. “There are a whole lot of new faces and players to get to know. But that’s part of the business. I think we have a team filled with potential and we’re all looking forward to making the necessary steps forward in our second season.”
In ’06, Mapp was named to the MLS Best XI squad.
In Philadelphia, the goal is to return to that level of productivity. More importantly, Mapp is focused on winning.
“I think we improved a lot last season,” Mapp said. “We had some tough losses where we felt like we should have won. I think having that year under our belts will help so much. We all feel like we should make a run for the postseason. We learned a lot last season, and getting here in mid-season, I felt like we were a different club at the end of the season. We had really gotten better each and every game.
“We feel like we have the talent to be there at the end. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Mapp had a quiet offseason spent training and relaxing with family and friends. Now that he’s back with the Union, it’s all business.
“It’s so important to stay sharp and fit in the offseason,” Mapp said. “I spent time at home and went to the gym a lot. As you get older, fitness is even more important. Peter (Nowak) stresses it, and he’s right. To compete at such a high level in this level, you have to be in great shape.”
The anticipation of season No. 2, especially the games at PPL Park, is enough to keep him motivated.
“Our fans are incredible, and having them behind us makes so much of a difference,” Mapp said. “In our locker room, we’re driven to succeed. I think we have the right mix of players in there, and we are all working toward the same goals.
"Once we get back from Greece, we’ll get ready for the season opener at Houston. Personally, I’m very anxious to get started.”