Columbus Crew youngster Wil Trapp received the ultimate praise following his side’s 3-1 victory at the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, when opposition skipper and Arsenal icon Thierry Henry singled the emerging midfielder out for special praise.
Marshalled by Trapp’s passing and tactical awareness, the win saw the Crew leapfrog the Red Bulls into fourth spot in the Eastern Conference with one regular-season game left before the play-offs, with Henry moved to label the 21-year-old’s performance as ‘outstanding’ after the final whistle.
‘Today they were better than us, there's nothing you can do. Wil Trapp was outstanding today,’ he told reporters.
‘I know [Federico] Higuain usually gets all [the attention] and the striker [Aaron Schoenfeld] scored two goals. [Ethan] Finlay wasn't bad either, but Wil Trapp is the key of that team and today he was dictating the tempo of that team, bringing the ball out from the back.
‘Higuain doesn't have to drop and get the ball. He will get it in a good position because Wil Trapp does his job; he brings the ball out for them. [It’s] difficult to stop.
‘He has a good future ahead of him, he's American, you guys should be happy. Today, I thought he was the difference.’
As a consummate teammate, Trapp is usually quick to deflect praise onto his teammates, but it was, nevertheless, hard for him to hide his appreciation upon hearing of Henry’s words.
‘You get goosebumps,’ he told MLSsoccer.com. ‘To hear one of your role models and idols growing up say that about you is fantastic.
‘To single me out for a game I played, it’s pretty awesome. Obviously, it makes you feel good. But so many guys played well; everyone played well. It’s not even fair to single out one player.’
Trapp should probably get used to such praise, however, given his status as one of the USA’s brightest prospects, whose future most likely lies in a top European leagues.
A product of the Crew’s academy, the Ohio-native signed a Homegrown contract with the club in December 2012 after two seasons of playing at the college level at Akron University, before going on to make his professional debut in July of the following year.
Making 16 appearances over the second half of the campaign, as well as starring for the US U-20 national team, his fairly limited time on the pitch was still enough for his undoubted promise to shine through, with many hailing him as future star of Jurgen Klinsmann’s senior side going into 2014.
Trapp has exceeded even the expectations of his strongest backers since, though, being named vice-captain before the start of the new season, before establishing himself as a core contributor under incoming head coach Gregg Berhalter.
|2014 MLS||Team||Pos||Goals||Assists||Key Passes||Total Pass / apps||Pass Acc||Total Tackle / apps||Interception / apps||Dispossessed / apps||Apps||Mins|
|Wil Trapp||Columbus Crew||MF||1||3||23||67.4||87.3%||3.9||2.3||1.1||27||2409|
Helping an unfancied Crew side secure a post-season spot, national team recognition in the near future now seems like formality for the player nicknamed “Wily Franchise” and, if he continues on his current trajectory, then a switch across the Atlantic won’t be far off either.
A slick passing but tough-tackling holding midfielder, who grew up admiring taskmasters such as Andrea Pirlo, Xabi Alonso and Paul Scholes, despite being honed in the often overlooked MLS, it wouldn’t be at all outlandish to suggest that Trapp could one day star at the club where the man who was so quick to praise his talents made himself a legend of the game.
Arsenal’s desire to find their holding midfielder of the future is, after all, well-documented and a potential Gunners line-up featuring both him and possible 2018 World Cup teammate Gedion Zelalem is a hugely tantalising prospect for American fans, who are yet to see one of their own stars on such a high-profile stage at the club level.
What’s more, Trapp is understood to have a clear path to EU citizenship through his Greek grandfather who immigrated to the States, and was reported to be in the process of obtaining his passport towards the end of last year, allowing him to bypass the usual work permit regulations.
Having played just one full professional season, it’s of course somewhat early to anoint him as a certified world class talent but, given what he has showcased thus far, it’s not hard to envisage him demonstrating his skills in an environment like the Emirates Stadium in due time.
While there was undoubtedly once a certain bias in the game against US-developed prospects, the recent rise of players like Tottenham Hotspur-bound DeAndre Yedlin has demonstrated that MLS is fully capable of producing Premier League-coveted stars, and Trapp could well be the next one to join the Seattle Sounders right-back in England.
It certainly says something when a legendary figure like Henry holds you in such high regard and Arsenal fans should hope that the Frenchman has put in a call to his compatriot Arsene Wenger about keeping an eye on the Crew standout’s progress over the coming months.
‘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,’ Trapp told Yanks Abroad back in 2013. ‘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.’
With the way he has been performing since, it looks like he may well get his wish sooner rather than later.