New York Red Bulls midfielder Sinisa Ubiparipovic, left, and Chicago Firemidfielder Marco Pappa scramble after the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer game Saturday.
There was no way Marco Pappa could avoid the media Tuesday.
The shy Fire midfielder faced the music after being named to start for the MLS All-Stars in the July 28 match against Manchester United in Houston. It's his first time as an all-star.
"Excited, you know?" Pappa said in halting English. "It's extra motivation to keep working. It's good news, you know?"
The Fire acquired Pappa, 22, on loan from CSD Municipal in his native Guatemala two years ago and signed him during the last off-season. He leads the team with 6 goals to go with 4 assists.
"I can't wait until July 28th," Pappa said.
Getting to play the world's most renowned club is a plus for Pappa also.
"Everybody knows about Manchester United," he said. "It's a big team. So it's a good opportunity. I'm excited to play with the biggest players in the world. We can show we play well."
Here come the Red Devils: Manchester United held a closed training session Tuesday on the Toyota Park pitch after the Fire held its own training there. While the Fire was working out, Red Devils goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar wandered down the tunnel to check out what the Fire was doing.
Van der Sar, a former Dutch international, received a warm welcome from former Fulham teammates Brian McBride and Collins John, both now in Chicago.
"I hadn't seen Edwin in a while, so it was good to see him," McBride said. "We were training, so I just had a split-second to say hello, and he's got training, so that was pretty much it. Just a hello."
Manchester United will hold another training session at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Toyota Park. That session is open to anyone holding a ticket to that night's SuperLiga match between the Fire and Monarcas Morelia.
The club also is in town to pick up a new shirt sponsor, Chicago-based Aon, whose logo will replace AIG's on club uniforms.
The Red Devils are also making preseason training stops in Toronto, Philadelphia and Kansas City before heading to Houston, where they will play the MLS all-stars.
Feeling Super: The Fire begins SuperLiga play at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday (Telefutura) at Toyota Park when it hosts Mexican side Monarcas Morelia. It also hosts fellow MLS club New England Revolution on Saturday night and Pumas UNAM next Tuesday, also in SuperLiga tournament play.
"It's very important to us," Fire forward Brian McBride said of SuperLiga, which involves four MLS teams and four Mexican teams, "especially from the standpoint of it's a chance to win a trophy. We always want to do that. It hasn't been done for a few years now. Now that we're out of the Open Cup, we have two options, and this one is first and foremost for the next three games."
Trophy time: Congratulations to the Chicago Fire Academy U-16 team, which battled to get into the U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoffs and now finds itself in Friday's championship at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
The roster includes several local players, including: Keaton Albert (Arlington Heights), Luis Barajas (Addison), Peter Beasely (Naperville), Andrew Conner (Cary), Johnny Contreras (Des Plaines), Eduardo Cuautle (Aurora), Henok Russell (Wheaton) and Anthony Torrez (Batavia).
The team is coached by Neuqua Valley coach Tony Kees, who also coached at Conant High School for 20 years.