AFTER CUP, TRAPP READY TO STEP UP
As the MLS prepares for the second half of its season, central midfielder Wil Trapp has high ambitions in what has already been an eventual 2013.
Trapp, 20, left the University of Akron to sign a homegrown contract with the Columbus Crew last December. At the same time, he was also playing for the US U-20 team as it prepared for the World Cup.
International duties consumed a significant amount of Trapp's time in the early part year. He missed most of the Crew's preseason for US U-20 World Cup qualifying then a large portion of June for the World Cup.
Since he has been back from international duty, however, he has begun to make a transition into the Crew's starting lineup. He has started the team's last three games prior to the All-star break going a full 90 each time.
Trapp's debut performance on July 7 came against Portland Timbers who were coached by Caleb Porter, Trapp's former college coach at Akron. It was a memorable day for Trapp as the Crew upset the Timbers and Trapp was voted by the fans as the man of the match.
"I was pumped and I was really excited," Trapp told YA. "Especially with the game against Portland and Caleb Porter, it made it special. I was ecstatic. Caleb has done a lot for me and I owe him a lot. It was nice to get the win and to do it against them was even better. I just want to keep playing as much as possible. We want to make the playoffs and that is the next goal."
When Trapp signed with the Crew during the offseason he became the latest Ohio native to join the organization. While the Crew is not one of the major markets in MLS, it has been one of the best organizations at bringing in local players.
The larger markets such as Southern California, New York, Texas, and Chicago have better soccer infrastructure but Trapp notices the Ohio region is improving. During his childhood, Trapp frequently played several age groups up and it forced him to adapt ahead of pace.
When Trapp made his debut against Portland, he was one of six Crew players in the starting lineup that was either born or raised in Ohio. For Trapp, he remembers the Crew from his earliest childhood days and while many young American players are primarily inspired by elite European clubs, the Crew has always been Trapp's team.
"The Crew started when I was three years old," Trapp said. "I have pictures of me and my sister at a game when I was four. So I've followed them for a long time and to have the opportunity to play for them, I underestimated the feelings and emotions wearing the jersey for the first time. The Crew has always been my number one team."
The most important priority now for Trapp will be to help the Crew make the MLS playoffs but to do so the club will have to reverse a recent skid in which it has lost five out of its last six. It presently sits in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and trails fifth place New England by seven points for the final playoff spot.
The Crew remains his present priority in the sport but Trapp also holds lofty long-term ambitions both on and off the field. Off the field, he is continuing to study biology at Akron but on the field he eventually wants to play in the elite leagues of Europe.
One of his biggest inspirations in the sport is his 93 year old grandfather who is a Greek immigrant and is still very passionate about the game in his native land. In addition, Trapp is in the process of obtaining a Greek passport which makes him just the second Greek player currently in MLS along with FC Dallas defender George John.
"I think growing up, every kid's dream is to play for one of the big European clubs and I'm one of those kids. Right now you wouldn't get any arguments that the best soccer is in Europe and if I ever get the opportunity I would want to pursue that."
Tapp's ambitions to play in Europe were only further enhances this summer at the U-20 World Cup in Turkey where he started every game for the U.S team in central midfield. The U.S team was drawn into the hardest group in the tournament with France, Spain, and Ghana. The U.S team failed to advance out of group play with a pair of 4-1 losses to Spain and Ghana along with a 1-1 draw to eventual champions France.
Despite the difficult results, Trapp insists the World Cup was a good learning experience both for the team and for him personally. He also remains a believer in the talent of the U.S U-20 team and the future of the players.
"It was eye opening but at the same time I thought that although the results didn't go the way we wanted, there were glimpses in each game where we showed good stuff," Trapp explained. "Whenever you play good teams, good players are going to make good plays. Against Spain, we didn't outplay them but we kept the ball pretty well and we tried to press them. For me it was an unbelievable experience being able to play against guys you watch on TV. To be able to go toe-to-toe with them is unbelievable."
The next challenge for Trapp and the players of that U-20 age group will likely come in 2016 as they will be part of the U-23 team that will attempt to qualify for the Olympics in 2016. It will be an important tournament for that team on different levels. First, the 2012 U-23 team failed to qualify for the London Olympics and there is a strong desire to get the U-23 team back on the winning track.
Second, and most importantly, it will be an important barometer for Trapp and the core players to measure how much progress they have made since the 2013 U-20 World Cup and what they have learned in that time to be able to achieve better results against the quality opponents.
Trapp is adamant that one of the areas that hurt the U.S team in Turkey was a lack of first team minutes. Among the core group of players, only Luis Gil and Jose Villarreal were earning consistent minutes for their club's first team.
Over the years ahead, Trapp is confident that as the U.S players begin to play more professional games the gap will narrow significantly.
"For most of our team, we were very young," Trapp said. "We're young professionals with some in college. Three years is a lot of time. New guys will come in and some guys will phase out. I think we need just a little time to mature and get more professional games under our belt. I think that will help transition to better results at the Olympic level. I'm very confident."
In its first game after the All-Star break, the Crew will visit the Houston Dynamo on Saturday.