The Columbus Crew’s central midfield will have a different look for the first time this season when they travel to Houston for a Wednesday matchup with the Dynamo (8 pm ET; MLS Live).
Thanks to two yellows in the Crew’s 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, Wil Trapp is suspended for Wednesday's game, temporarily breaking up his partnership with Tony Tchani in the center of the Columbus midfield.
And while head coach Gregg Berhalter said that he doesn't think there's “a like-for-like replacement in the whole league” for Trapp, the Crew boss isn't worried about replacing him.
“We have this roster where guys want to be on the field and guys want to compete for spots,” Berhalter told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “So this is a chance for someone to step up and compete.”
Berhalter said that the “main candidates” the Crew are looking at are Daniel Paladini, who has yet to see any action with Columbus after an early injury, Augustín Viana, who also hasn't seen the field for the Crew this year, Eric Gehrig, who has largely played defense in his MLS career, and Tchani himself.
And while he said he feels comfortable with any of those players in the holding midfield role, he knows that Trapp had hit a rhythm.
“The benefit Wil has is that he's been working in that position for the whole year so far, so he's getting used to it and he's been consistently there and he's used to the nuances of the position,” Berhalter said. “Another guy who may play there may not have the familiarity of the position.
“In Wil's position, we're asking the guy to be a distributor, to be organizing in front of the back four and to break up plays in front of the center defenders. So it's a specific task that we'll be asking that guy.”
Berhalter said he's been teaching the same style of play “since the beginning” and won't change things too much with Trapp out of the lineup. But he agreed that the Crew offense will look a bit different.
“No two players are exactly alike, so of course it's going to look a little different,” he said. “And maybe we'll ask this person to make some subtle changes to how we're asking this person to play, but in general it will be the same. And we're going to try to play our game. I've been saying that all year, and that's what we look to do.”
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Berhalter also said it’s a chance for Tchani to shine.
“I'd say Tony needs to step up a little, and his game needs to take more of an authoritative role,” Berhalter said. “If you have someone coming in the first time this year, Tony will need to step it up.”
The Crew may also be without wide midfielder Hector Jimenez, who is dealing with a right calf strain suffered in Sunday's match. Berhalter said he's “not sure” whether he’ll will be available.