Chris Rolfe couldn't figure out what Guatemalan teammate Marco Pappa was trying to say when they shared a hotel room in Toronto last month. Pappa kept saying the word "Beijing"—which confused Rolfe.
"I was like 'the Olympics?' " said Rolfe, 25. "We were watching baseball and then he pointed to the TV and said 'The catcher is Beijing the other player.' I was like, 'No, behind.'
"That exchange lasted like three minutes—three long minutes."
The Fire forward and midfielder have been having these sort of exchanges since Pappa left Guatemala in July to join the Fire. Although they don't share the same native language, they share the same sense of humor as well as an interest in learning the other person's language.
"He tries to help me learn English and I try to help him learn Spanish," said Pappa, 21, who claims Rolfe called him papas fritas (french fries) when they first met.
Rolfe took three years of Spanish beginning in 8th grade. The Kettering, Ohio, native who played for the University of Dayton said he rarely used it because he was nervous he would say something wrong.
"He talked to me in Spanish for the first week," Rolfe said about Pappa. "I just smiled a lot. He must have thought I was fluent. Eventually he realized I wasn't good at Spanish.
"He has done more to help me out with my Spanish than other guys. He'll ask me how to say a word in English and since we're already talking about it, I'll ask him how to say it in Spanish."
Rolfe and Pappa arrived in Toronto before the rest of the team last month because they both were coming from games with their respective national teams. The two were late for the bus to the Toronto FC game because Pappa was helping Rolfe with the Spanish alphabet.
"He was rolling on the floor laughing while I tried to pronounce the letters of the alphabet," Rolfe said.
Pappa, Rolfe and Fire midfielder John Thorrington have been called in by their respective national teams for Wednesday's World Cup qualifier between the United States and Guatemala in Commerce City, Colo., (7 p.m. ESPN Classic, Galavision). The United States already has qualified for the final round of qualifying. Guatemala needs a victory over the United States and help.
"It's going to be very strange seeing them on the other side [Wednesday]," Pappa said. "But it'll be nice to see those guys again."