For anyone who has followed the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team leading up to the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup, they would know just how consistent and essential midfielder Wil Trapp has been throughout the year for this group.
The Gahanna, Ohio, native rose through the ranks at the Columbus Crew’s Development Academy, earned a professional homegrown contract with the club late last year, and now he is coming off a 1-1 draw against France on June 24 in the U-20 World Cup – a game that featured Trapp wearing the captain’s armband.
Watching Trapp’s rise front-and-center has been Crew technical director Brian Bliss, who joined the MLS organization in 2008 and has been Trapp’s assistant coach for the U-20 MNT and head coach Tab Ramos.
“He was the crown jewel in our system ever since he was about 14,” Bliss said. “We have signed some previous homegrown players before Wil, but none had the accomplishments that Wil had at the youth level and college, as well.”
Trapp is not the most physically intimidating presence on the soccer field at approximately 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds. But those numbers do not factor in Trapp’s high soccer IQ, vision and the extensive work that he has put in to be an impact player on the international level.
“Playing in that No. 6 role where he’s best suited, he had to develop the tackling part and the competing for head balls, battling with players bigger than him to pick up the loose balls and second balls,” Bliss said. “I give him credit. He always knew that it was something he needed to work on and he’s gone out and made an effort to increase his capacity in those areas.”
As an assistant for the U-20s and the Crew, Bliss is cognizant of the fact that he might be a little tougher on the Crew’s homegrown signing.
“Sometimes you go overboard and you’re overly critical of him because you’ve known him for a while and you know his idiosyncrasies,” Bliss said. “In meetings I can be overly critical of his game because I know sometimes he could do a little bit better in certain instances. You don’t want it to be seen that you’re a homer for your own guy, so you tend to sometimes be more critical of his game when you’re talking about evaluating the player, the game itself and what we need in the next game.”
The Crew connection between Trapp and Bliss started out modestly since Bliss wasn’t directly coaching him. But as Trapp proved his worth as the Crew’s top Academy player for two years, he increasingly looked to Bliss for advice and opportunities.
“As the years went on with the Crew and the Academy, I started to see him more and got his phone number and talked to him,” Trapp said. “If I wanted to go train with the first team he would set it up when I would have free days. Definitely over my time in high school and with the Academy our relationship evolved more and more. When I left Akron this past semester to sign with the Crew, it was seamless. I knew Bliss, I knew the coaching staff, and I knew players, so it was a very easy transition for me.”
Trapp would message Bliss on occasion if he felt he did not play particularly well but knew the Crew technical director was on hand watching.
“He’d text and say, ‘Hey, what did you see? What could I have done better?” said Bliss. “A lot of players don’t seek that kind of information out. They just sweep it under the rug and hope it doesn’t happen again to them. Wil’s the type of guy who was always looking for feedback and input from others. Give him credit. He’s a student of the game and he still is today.”
While always asking for input, Trapp also made an impression on the coaches with his work effort.
“Wil was always a guy who was looking for the extra work and looking to get into the first-team training,” Bliss said. “When opportunities were there, he was one of the first guys to get the text message – ‘Hey, be at the Obetz at 9:15 for 10 training’ – and he was there. He’s always made good on his opportunities when he’s been with the first team.”
Trapp is patiently awaiting his moment to make his MLS debut with the Crew. In the meantime, Trapp is taking advantage of his role on U-20 head coach Tab Ramos’ side in the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
“There’s always room for improvement. That’s the way I always look at it,” Trapp said. “Each day you can push to get better, and I think that helps me with the Crew right now because I haven’t been playing. I think in order to get on the field I have get better wherever I’m at – whether I’m here (with the U-20s) or back home training. That’s what I have to work toward. Being a young guy in MLS, it’s never easy to break into the lineup. … I’m just trying to do well and show well, and hopefully my performances here will help me when I get back home. But really I just want to stay focused on winning games.”