OBETZ, Ohio – For the foreseeable future, the Columbus Crew’s first-choice midfield pairing will be walking on eggshells.
Wil Trapp and Tony Tchani – head coach Gregg Berhalter’s preferred midfield partners – are both one yellow card away from a one-match suspension for the second week in a row. And while Berhalter said he’s certainly hoping neither get a yellow card for the rest of the season, both players staying out of the books for 11 games seems unlikely.
“We’ll take it as it comes,” Berhalter said. “We have guys who are ready to step in. When it happens – if it happens – we’ll deal with it.”
Berhalter said he hasn’t given any special instructions to the pair about avoiding tackles, but Trapp says it’s on their mind.
“There are some tackles that you know you just can’t go into,” he said. “But you try not to focus too much on it. You have to play the game. In saying that, you have to be very smart.”
The discipline isn’t a huge focus for Tchani, but the Cameroonian admitted that he was thinking about it during last weekend’s match against Toronto FC, with a matchup against the LA Galaxy looming (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, MLS Live).
“I don’t really think about it, but the last game I thought about it a little bit,” he said. “I don’t want to miss this game because it’s probably the game that can turn our season around. I want to be in this game, because it’s a really good team.
“I’ve seen LA on TV a few times, and I feel like, to me, they’re the best team in the league. If we can take them down, I think we have a good chance to turn our season around.”
According to Berhalter, he would prefer that the players play “their regular game,” but Tchani – who has been known to have conversations with referees – said his coach has told him to cool down.
“[Berhalter] said, ‘Tony, if the referee talks to you, what are you going to do?’ I said, ‘I’ll just walk away,’” Tchani said. “It’s something I’m trying to do. I’m trying to be fine with the ref, just in case I slip up, he can be like, ‘OK, he didn’t do it that many times.’”
- Check out more Columbus news at TheCrew.com
Trapp, who has five yellow cards and two red cards on the season, says he won’t change his game too much. But he knows he needs to play intelligently.
“Just be smart, pick your challenges,” he said. “Don’t shy away from anything, but don’t be stupid either. You never want to step on the field thinking about that kind of stuff. We have enough to worry about, so that’s the last thing you want to worry about.”
Trapp and Tchani both say they prefer playing with one another. But two wrong moves in the same game could leave the Crew midfield decimated for the next match. And the pair is well aware.
“If both of us go out, we’re going to have to change things around,” Trapp said. “So hopefully that doesn’t happen.”