Marco Pappa 3

Fit the final question as Seattle selects Marco Pappa


That big Marco Pappa versus Erik Friberg talk we had on Wednesday? Come Thursday, it was irrelevant. Friberg had signed with Bologna, eliminating one of Seattle’s options. Instead of potentially luring the former Sounder back to Major League Soccer, Seattle could either take the already signed up Pappa — returning for a failed 16-month spell in Holland — or trade the first pick in the allocation order. Either way, they had to decide by Friday at 4p.m. ET.

Hours ago their decision became official, with Pappa becoming the latest addition to the 2014 Sounders. Though Seattle did try to trade the pick, the price they were asking amounted to due diligence. If nobody was willing to give them beyond Pappa’s value, Seattle appeared happy to add the Guatemalan international.

If they’ve acquired the same player Chicago sold to Heerenveen in August 2012, Seattle’s got another All-Star caliber player to an attack that already features Clint Dempey, Obafemi Martins, and Kenny Cooper. With Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans also likely starters in the team’s front six, the Sounders’ offseason shakeup has left them with an enviable group in front of defense. And of course, that defense has added Chad Marshall and Stefan Frei, albeit at the cost of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Michael Gspurning.

If, however, Seattle get a player that’s regressed at Heerenveen, they’ve got another a Eddie Johnson-esque restoration project on their hands. When the U.S. international returned to MLS, he’d rarely played during his final days at Fulham (or, his various loan destinations). Sigi Schmid, however, made him into an All-Star, a transformation he may have to repeat with Pappa. Languishing at club level (283 league minutes in 16 months), Pappa has also seen his production drop for Guatemala.

To get him on track, Seattle may have to abandon the idea of a midfield diamond, a formation they seemed to be leaning toward as the likes of Mauro Rosales and Steve Zakuani left this summer. With those players, though, there with other reasons for leaving the team – details that had nothing to do with how Schmid planned to set up his team. Though the squad and Schmid’s use of Dempsey implied Seattle would stay with a diamond, nothing’s set in stone.

With the acquisition of Pappa, Seattle has a significant incentive to ditch an approach that became a hinderance during last year’s postseason. Best when deployed wide and allowed to come in, Pappa doesn’t fit in the setup Schmid used at the end of last season. Any attempt to squeeze him in might complicate Seattle’s ability to get him back on track.

If, however, Schmid goes back to flat midfield, everything all of a sudden falls into place. He’s got Alonso and Evans in the middle, Martins and Cooper up top, and Dempsey and Pappa wide. Everybody’s playing their natural positions. Schmid goes back to a setup that’s worked recently. The offseason shake-up could lead to a refreshingly back-to-basics approach.

It’s also an approach that gives Seattle the best chance to make this pick worthwhile. Whether he excels or falls on his face, Pappa’s worth this ‘gamble’ (which only required giving up the top spot in allocation). But that gamble has a much greater chance of succeeding if Pappa’s put in a natural spot.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.