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Scouting the USMNT’s World Cup qualifier opposition: Guatemala

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What do we know about the Guatemalan national team?

That its likely better than your perception of it.

While the United States men’s national team should be considered heavy favorites to pick up the lion’s share of the six points available to it in this week’s World Cup qualifying matches against Guatemala, don’t sleep on Walter Claveri’s La Azul y Blanco.

[ USMNT: Dortmund’s Pulisic could join up for second match ]

After an ugly first two-thirds of 2015, the side is starting to put together some decent results as it attempts to beat out either Trinidad and Tobago or the U.S. to a berth in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying’s fifth round.

Guatemala has a win and a loss in qualifying so far, beating St. Vincent and the Grenadines in Kingstown but falling to T&T at home. Yes, they beat Honduras 3-1 in Guatemala City last month, but they’re also a side that was soundly beaten by the Yanks in a pre-Gold Cup friendly.

An own goal sent that game to halftime 1-0 to the U.S. before Clint Dempsey, Chris Wondolowski and Timmy Chandler eased the States to a 4-0 win in Nashville.

While 36-year-old Carlos Ruiz remains the team’s captain, the striker is no longer an offensive force for Guatemala. The side has seen goals from all over the squad in its recent run, but 29-year-old Gerson Tinoco’s three goals since Sept. 8 are leading the way.

[ MORE: See the USMNT training camp roster ]

Guatemala is 3W-1L-2D during that run, though it hasn’t exactly been facing any world powers. When that has happened since the start of 2015, it hasn’t been pretty: Blowouts have come against the U.S., Uruguay and Mexico, though Guatemala also drew 0-0 with El Tri in a friendly.

Three MLS players are on the Guatemala roster, with Colorado’s Marco Pappa (above), the Crew’s Rodrigo Savaria and FC Dallas’ Moises Hernandez all in the mix to represent La Azul y Blanco.

The Yanks haven’t lost to Guatemala in 21-straight matches, and boast a 15W-4L-6D record all-time.

Report: Rapids, Guatemala mid Pappa stabbed by Miss Washington USA

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It’s one of the wilder stories from a bizarre winter of off-the-field violence in the soccer community.

Colorado Rapids midfielder Marco Pappa reportedly underwent surgery in December for a wound to his abdomen.

[ MORE: Atletico, Real Madrid hit with two-window transfer bans ]

According to KING 5 News in Seattle, that’s because he was stabbed by Miss Washington winner Stormy Keffeler.

Pappa, 28, was with the Sounders from 2014-15 and traded to Colorado on Dec. 15. The report does not say if the incident occurred before or after his trade, and the Rapids elected not to comment on the issue. Pappa couldn’t be reached.

From King5.com:

The source goes on to say Miss Washington USA, Stormy Keffeler, offered different explanations about what happened.

Pappa was rushed from the apartment to the hospital where he underwent surgery. His story changed too, according to the source who says there have been no arrests and the case is still under investigation.

That’s the second legal incident for Keffeler. The same report says an April DUI arrest of Keffeler featured a “blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit”.

We’re glad to hear that Pappa is okay, and also hesitant to comment (or even make too many quips about Keffeler’s name being Stormy) because of the sensitivity of domestic incidents. Hopefully all parties are safe and sound moving forward.

MLS hot stove: Offseason trades, free agent signings roll on

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Last time we checked in on the hot stove that is the MLS offseason, we were just hours into the fast and furious season of wheeling and dealing assets, but a handful of key trades had already been executed.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

As we check back in a few days later, it’s still trade after trade (after free-agent signing) after trade going down these days. A quick recap of noteworthy MLS roster moves made over the last week…

Prior to selecting Urruti with the first pick of the re-entry draft (stage one), FC Dallas acquired said position from the Portland Timbers in exchange for allocation money. Urruti, who counted just $200,000 against the salary cap in 2015, scored five goals for the Timbers in 2015 (playoffs included), a year after bagging 10 in just 12 starts (30 total appearances). With Blas Perez out of contract and on his way out of town, Urruti will compete with David Texeira for the starting center forward spot in 2016.

[ MORE: Sale of Houston Dynamo completed ]

The reigning MLS Cup champions sold Jorge Villafana to Santos Laguna for a fee of just under $1 million, and quickly filled the gaping hole at left back by acquiring Chris Klute from Columbus Crew SC in exchange for allocation money. Klute ($82,500 cap hit in 2015), who had plenty of U.S. national team buzz around him back in 2013, racked up seven assists while playing full back for the Colorado Rapids, but saw his playing time decrease in 2014 before being traded to Crew SC last winter. He made just 14 appearances (8 starts) for Crew SC this season, but fits the two-way profile for full backs in Caleb Porter’s system to a T.

[ MORE: USMNT to face Iceland, Canada at conclusion of January camp ]

If you had Justin Mapp in your “Who will be the first free agent signed in MLS history?” office pool, you’re a winner. Mapp signed with Sporting Kansas City on Monday, giving the current U.S. Open Cup holders a much-needed injection of width and wing play heading into 2016. Mapp played in just five games in 2015 thanks to a dislocated and broken elbow suffered in the season opener back in March. In his three previous seasons with the Montreal Impact, Mapp averaged seven assists per season from 2012-2014. His salary cap hit was $186,725 in 2015, meaning he is eligible for a raise of up to 20 percent, given he made between $100,000 and $200,000 this year.

[ MORE: MLS announces $37 million investment for player signings ]

Marco Pappa was traded to the Rapids, by the Seattle Sounders, in exchange for allocation money. Pappa somehow counted just $75,000 against the cap in 2015 — that number was perhaps paid down with allocation money — after returning from a failed stint in Holland in 2014. In his first season back in MLS, Pappa scored six goals and assisted on five others, but his time in Seattle soured this season when he was arrested for DUI in July.

Seattle Sounders Marco Pappa suspended from MLS after DUI arrest

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The Seattle Sounders will be without Marco Pappa after the Guatemalan midfielder was arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning for speeding and driving under the influence.

[ MORE: Drogba to Montral, Chicago? ]

Pappa, 27, represented Guatemala during the 2015 Gold Cup as Los Chapines crashed out at the group stage after not winning a game.

Major League Soccer released the statement below following Papa’s arrest.

He will now be assessed by MLS’ Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program and will be suspended from playing until that process is over.

Seattle Sounders midfielder Marco Pappa was arrested early Sunday morning for driving under the influence and speeding. Pappa will undergo an assessment by MLS’ Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health (“SABH”) Program doctors pursuant to the SABH Policy. He will not be eligible to participate in any competition until that assessment is complete, he is cleared for participation by the SABH Program doctors, and Major League Soccer completes its investigation.

Seattle’s GM, Garth Lagerwey, had the following to say on the club’s website on Pappa.

“We are gathering information on this matter and have been in contact with the league office, the MLS Players Union, local law enforcement and Marco directly. We will continue to work in cooperation with all involved parties and will have no further comment until more information is available.”

Pappa has been an integral part of Seattle’s success this season, starting 15 of the 16 games he’s played in, scoring twice and adding five assists from midfield.

Philadelphia Union forward CJ Sapong missed three games for a similar offense earlier this season.

MLS Snapshot: Sporting Kansas City 1-0 Seattle Sounders (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Neither side had any of its first-choice strikers available from the start — Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey, Chad Barrett, Dom Dwyer or Krisztian Nemeth — and only Dwyer was in the house Saturday night. A pair of false-nines led the line for Sporting KC and the Seattle Sounders, as the two sides played 80 minutes of scoreless soccer, before a questionable penalty was awarded to Sporting KC inside the final 10 minutes. Seattle will certainly feel hard done by, as their perfectly good goal was taken away just 15 minutes earlier. Referees never like it when they’re mentioned in the opening of any match report, but here we are. We know on which side of the fence Sporting KC and Sounders will fall, but what do the neutrals say? Either way, it’s seven games unbeaten (four wins, three draws) for Sporting.

[ MORE: The rest of PST’s Week 14 coverage ]

Three moments that mattered

62′ — Melia comes up big against Pappa — Marco Pappa found the rare bit of space inside the Sporting penalty area, and if not for Tim Melia making the strong save from close range, it would have been 1-0, Sounders.

66′ — Offside call wrongly rules out Neagle’s goal — It was very briefly 1-0 to the Sounders, before an incorrect offside call negated what was really a tidy finish from Lamar Neagle, poking home Pappa’s cross.

83′ — Dwyer goes down, Sporting awarded a penalty — Stefan Frei was adjudged to have taken down Dwyer inside the penalty area — as I said, questionable call — and Sporting had themselves a penalty. Benny Feilhaber stepped up and converted as cool as could be done with the game on the line.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Tim Melia — The career-long journeyman ‘keeper made six saves on the night, including four crucial, one-on-one stops to keep the game scoreless until late. I wonder how this one would have ended with Luis Marin in goal.

LINEUPS

Sporting Kansas City: Melia, Dia, Besler, Ellis, Anibaba, Mustivar, Espinoza, Feilhaber, De Jong (Dwyer 58′), Zusi, Hallisey (Abdul-Salaam 85′)

Goals: Feilhaber (PK – 84′)

Seattle Sounders: Frei, Remick, Marshall, Scott, Mears, Pineda, Azira (Jones 86′), Pappa (Thomas 80′), Rose, Roldan (Gonzalez 77′), Neagle