Columbus Crew SC's Wil Trapp, Ethan Finlay and Tony Tchani bullish on USMNT prospects following January camp

USMNT Training - Wil Trapp - Jermaine Jones - January 2016

LEWIS CENTER, Ohio—After they fell just short of an MLS Cup in 2015, Columbus Crew SC players Ethan Finlay, Tony Tchani and Wil Trapp each entered the offseason with distinct US national team hopes.

It had been nearly a year since Trapp made his first USMNT camp (January 2015). Finlay's pair of stellar MLS seasons – along with a once-and-for-all decree that he couldn’t, and wouldn’t, play for Canada – led many to wonder when he would get his shot. And months after missing a Cameroon call due to injury, Tchani was a rumored surprise candidate in the national picture.

When national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann announced his selections to the Carson, California camp in January, all three Columbus standouts were included. The trio spent the month getting acclimated; both Finlay and Tchani earned their first international caps.

“We had a blast,” Trapp said. “I’ll be the first to say it. And it was wonderful to see them both get their first caps and do well in their games.”

Finlay was the first to see the field. He was active in his 60-minute debut against Iceland, but made his lasting mark in the team’s second friendly against Canada. In the 89th minute, he juked around a Canadian defender and whipped a perfect cross to Jozy Altidore, who scored the match’s only goal to give the USMNT the win.

As he ran to celebrate with Altidore in the corner, Finlay ran into Trapp, who had come into the match as a substitute moments earlier.

Finlay said cameras caught “a very real moment” for the pair of friends and teammates.

“It was just an exciting time for both of us as we were sharing this whole experience together,” he said. “It was my first camp as well as [it was for] Tony, so when you have a relationship like that with someone off the field and you play with them every day, those are fun moments.”

Tchani got several minutes to show his own game against Iceland, but the larger story was his integration with the team. Born and raised in Cameroon, Tchani has only been a US citizen since 2013. But he said the group made him feel welcome right away.

He said he learned the most from the likes of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, but was happy with how everyone treated him.

“They were really good guys,” he said. “When I first got in in the first few days, I felt like I was part of the team. They come and talk to you. Nobody really thinks they’re above you or anything. They always come and talk to you and say, ‘Hi,’ and ‘We’ll get through this together.’”

But perhaps most important for Tchani was having his Columbus teammates by his side.

“When you go through tough moments – it was a tough first few days – you can go and talk to them,” he said.

For Trapp, the camp was one element of a bigger picture.

Some expected him to feature more (Trapp only played 13 minutes against Canada), but the young midfielder said Klinsmann’s focus was on Trapp leading a U-23 squad that made up a large portion of the camp; that group will play a two-game series against Colombia in March for a trip to the Olympics.

“The full team has two games coming up against Guatemala here in the near future, as well as the U-23s having some important games coming up against Colombia,” Trapp said. “Jurgen is looking for guys who may be playing for the full team in those games. So when you look at it like that, it makes sense.”

Trapp recognizes and appreciates Klinsmann’s trust in his abilities as a primary member of the U-23 team.

“Right now, the focus on myself in his eyes is to drive this group with the U-23s,” Trapp said. “Qualifying for Rio is something that US Soccer, Jurgen and every player in the cycle views as extremely important. So right now that’s the goal, and it’s a role I welcome.”