MLS Soccer

Pappa leaves Sounders for international duty

Seattle Sounders FC has used the same lineup in back-to-back games for the first time this season, and won both.

However, there will be at least one change Wednesday when the Sounders visit Chivas USA, as midfielder Marco Pappa will be playing with Guatemala’s national team for the Central American Cup.

“We have different options,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “I think Lamar Neagle can play there. We’ve used Kenny Cooper in a wide position before. We’ve used (Chad) Barrett wide. (Aaron) Kovar, Sean Okoli — young players have shown they can play there as well. We’ll make a decision on that. It changes us a little bit because Pappa, his style of play is different than all those guys. But that’s neither here nor there, because we have enough players with experience playing there.”

Neagle seems the cleanest option. He had started 15 consecutive games when healthy before being moved to the bench Aug. 20 when Schmid opted for Cooper at right midfield. Then last week in wins against Portland and Colorado, Schmid went with what seemed to be his first-choice midfield of Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Gonzalo Pineda and Pappa.

“I think I had a little bit of a slump, but I’m coming out of it,” Neagle said after the Sounders returned to training Monday. “It’s a long season, so a lot of things happen with teams and individual players. It’s just something that I need to deal with. … (Pappa) is going on national team duty — he’s been doing well. It’s a time for other players to step up. Since I wasn’t playing, this is a time for me to step up.”

Pappa came to the Sounders over the offseason through the allocation process after playing 2012-13 with SC Heerenveen in the top level of Dutch soccer. He has three goals and three assists, including the game-winning assist in the 1-0 win over the Rapids on Saturday.

He also has 31 appearances with the Guatemalan national team, including 15 World Cup qualifiers.

“It’s always an honor to go on the national team when they think about me,” Pappa said. “You know how important it is to go represent your country no matter what. Like I say, I go with all my positives and hope we can do good with the national team. And I will also always be thinking about this team and hope they’re doing good.”

Guatemala opens Central American Cup play Wednesday against El Salvador at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Their schedule continues Sunday against Belize in Dallas before group play concludes Sept. 10 against Honduras in Houston. The tournament resolves Sept. 13 in Los Angeles.

Pappa is expected to return to the Sounders in time for the U.S. Open Cup final Sept. 16 at Philadelphia.

This is his first international call since joining the Sounders, and Schmid believes the door is open for Pappa to fill a key role.

“A very dominant player for Guatemala was Carlos Ruiz, and he’s no longer there,” Schmid said. “And Marco is a guy who can step into those shoes and become a leader of that team, and he can sort of be the guy who takes that team to the next level. That’s what Carlos did for a number of years, and I think that’s the shoulders now that Marco has to be prepared to bear that weight.”

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