A day after being cleared to rejoin team activities, Marco Pappa officially returned to Seattle Sounders training on Thursday. When he'll actually start playing in actual games is another question, entirely.
Although Pappa was apparently allowed to work out while he was in his league-mandated substance-abuse rehabilitation program, the reality is that the midfielder has not actually trained in more than a month. And even if he was up the physical challenge, the Sounders appear to want to work him back in slowly.
"We wish the best for Marco and his family, certainly the personal side is the most important," Sounders GM and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey told the media at halftime of Wednesday's CCL match. "If he gets that right, the football talent is all there. That’s what we stressed to him: Make sure your family is OK, and we’ll be here."
"What’s most important is where Marco is mentally, emotionally, health wise and if his family is OK," Lagerwey continued, noting that Pappa at least looks physically fit. "If all those things are OK, and if you complete the program, that’s certainly a good start and a good foundation. We need to continue to be supportive of him with all those things. If he feels ready to play, we’ll bring him back into the team. What that looks like, I don’t know."
Assuming Pappa can return at full fitness, the Sounders suddenly have another very dangerous weapon in their arsenal. Pappa has shown stretches of borderline dominance and prior to his arrest was among the league leaders with five assists to go along with two goals. Pappa was also a key cog in last year's Supporters' Shield-winning team, highlighted by the two goals he scored in the clinching match against the LA Galaxy.
Although Pappa is unlikely to be a starter after the Sounders acquired Andreas Ivanschitz and Nelson Haedo Valdez, he could be a useful player off the bench.