A fixture in the Philadelphia Union lineup for the past year-and-a-half, Justin Mapp admitted he was a little surprised when he found out he’d be left unprotected for the 2011 MLS Expansion Draft.
But as someone who’s been a professional since he was 17, he also knew it was a business decision – one that he should not take personally even after the expansion Montreal Impact scooped him up with their third pick in the draft.
“I don’t hold anything against anybody,” Mapp told MLSsoccer.com. “There are a lot of different variables that go into it. Players move around different clubs all the time. There’s definitely no bitterness.”
For the Union, it was not easy to see Mapp go. The 27-year-old outside midfielder made 44 appearances for Philly after being acquired from Chicago in the middle of the 2010 season, and he was a calming, steadying presence in the club’s young locker room.
Union coaches have credited Mapp for helping the Union go from a middling expansion team in 2010 to a playoff team in 2011. Mapp credits them for giving him a fresh start with a new club after he spent nearly eight seasons in Chicago.
“I really appreciate the Union staff for giving me the opportunity the last year-and-a-half,” Mapp said. “This is a great organization with great people and great fans. I definitely enjoyed my time here for sure.”
Mapp, a Mississippi native, said he’s excited for another new opportunity, although he’s not sure yet what to expect. He’s never been to Montreal and guessed that “Montreal and Mississippi are about as opposite as you can get.”
But the midfielder does know some of his new teammates – including Tyson Wahl, who he played with in the U-17 residency program – and was a teammate of Impact head coach Jesse Marsch in Chicago. While the possibilities that lie ahead are exciting, perhaps the most difficult part for Mapp is knowing that he’s leaving a Union team that could be poised to join the ranks of the league’s elite for years to come.
“It’s obviously bittersweet,” he said. “I know they have a great group of core guys and a good group of young guys coming up who are very talented players. We made big strides last year and I obviously won’t be a part of that going forward.”
He’ll also miss what he says is an unrivaled atmosphere at PPL Park.
“Not every club has that type of support, and I think playing in front of that type of fan base was very special,” Mapp said. “That was probably the best part for me."