MONTREAL - Director of soccer operations Matt Jordan wanted one thing made clear about the Montreal Impact's left side midfielder Justin Mapp:
"Justin is probably one of the most talented players on our team and we're very happy to have him back. I want to emphasize that," Jordan said Friday of the player who has been a topic of debate among fans and the media.
Perhaps it just seemed that the Impact were not thrilled with their outside midfielders when they left Mapp open to the Major League Soccer "re-entry process" in November, only to sign him before the draft of unsigned players was held.
Or when they picked up 31-year-old midfielder Andrea Pisanu on loan from striker Marco Di Vaio's old Italian Serie-A club Bologna.
Or when they went heavy on wingers at the SuperDraft, taking quick, left-footed Blake Smith of the University of New Mexico with their first selection, eighth overall, and midfielder Fernando Monje with a later first-round pick.
"We feel we have a lot of good outside midfielders," added Jordan, naming Mapp, captain Davy Arnaud who normally starts on the right side, as well as Lamar Neagle, Pisanu and Smith. "They can play on the left or right side.
"What we like about the players on this team is they are adaptable. We feel we have good depth at every position and we feel competition at every position is the most important factor. We had a lot of players that did well from the wide positions, but we're always looking to improve."
He said placing Mapp's name on the re-entry list was a formality for players whose contracts were up.
Mapp's salary won't be known until the MLS players association publishes the list after the season starts, but last year he was the team's third highest paid at US$210,000 after designated player Marco Di Vaio, ($1 million in salary and $1.9 million guaranteed), and Arnaud at $275,000.
Former UEFA first team defender Alessandro Nesta earns only $180,000, with $225,000 guaranteed.
Mapp, a Brandon, Miss., native, said he wasn't concerned.
"I was on a cruise at the time so there wasn't much communication to begin with, but I knew I wanted to be back here and I kind of got the word from them that they wanted me back," said Mapp. "So it was just a matter of working out the details."
The 28-year-old had an up and down year with the expansion Impact in 2012.
Some dangerous rushes were offset by times when he would hesitate before making a play, losing the moment.
The former Philadelphia Union midfielder hopes to be better and healthier going into his 12th MLS campaign.
"I had some good moments last year but I was also injured a couple of times," he said. "You always take a step back when that happens."
As for having 22-year-old Smith nipping at his heels, Mapp said "on any good team I've been on there's been competition. That's part of it. You just do the best you can."
The five-foot-10, 150-pound Smith certainly has wheels, as he showed zipping up the left side in a scrimmage at the end of a two-hour indoor training session at Marie-Victorin College.
Jordan, a former Impact goalkeeper, said the draft worked out nicely because when their turn came up, the player they considered the best available and one at the position they targeted was there to be selected in Smith.
"I was just excited to be picked, I wasn't too concerned with where I was going," said Smith, who grew up watching the former Dallas Burn, now called FC Dallas in MLS, while supporting English club Arsenal from afar.
"The level's a step higher than college. I'm no longer a star out here. I'm just someone at the bottom of the totem pole who has to work his way up, but it's an exciting challenge to be able to work with guys like this."
Midfielder and forward Sanna Nyassi, who took a knock on an ankle on the opening day of camp on Monday, ran on his own on the sidelines.
Oft-injured defender Nelson Rivas rode a stationary bicycle and didn't practice.