OBETZ, Ohio – When Wil Trapp’s stunning stoppage-time rocket from 40 yards out soared into the top right corner of the net to give Columbus Crew SC a last-minute victory over Orlando City SC Saturday, it wasn’t just the first goal for Trapp since 2014.
The strike was his first in MAPFRE Stadium, located just 10 miles from his hometown, since he scored in the final shot of a penalty shootout with to win Ohio’s Division I high school championship for Gahanna Lincoln High School in 2009.
“To think that it’s been nine years since I scored in that stadium, after all the games I’ve played, it’s pretty crazy,” he said at training this week.
A lot has changed for Trapp since then.
He’s gone from an exciting prospect to a stalwart for club and country, and has become the face of the Crew SC organization, getting married, earning national team calls and playing in an MLS Cup final along the way.
But there’s one similarity between the two decisive goals: Trapp was wearing the captain’s armband for both.
Now 25, Trapp is in his second season as Columbus' captain, and has served as captain of the US men's national team in his last two appearances under Dave Sarachan. And as he's grown in that role, Trapp says his leadership style has evolved since his teenage years..
“In high school, it was more leading by example,” he said. “I just had more quality than everyone. You’re a better player. So it was less about my leadership skills and more about me as a player. Now, I’m much more comfortable in terms of communicating, talking to guys and stepping into tougher situations to lead guys through.”
Trapp said last season, his first wearing the armband full-time, was when his mentality shifted most.
He had experience as captain in lower levels, and had been vice-captain in Columbus, pulling on the armband at 21 to become the first Homegrown Player captain in MLS history.
But when Michael Parkhurst left Columbus ahead of the 2017 season, Trapp was installed as captain, along with a “leadership council” for support. That season, he said, he learned to be the right kind of leader.
“You turn 24 and it’s the natural [point],” he said. “Our captain had left. We needed someone to fill that role. We were coming off a tough season the year before. Now, it was, ‘How do I move into that [role]?’”
Head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter said Trapp has come a long way since he took over the team for the first time in 2013.
“He’s becoming much more comfortable with who he is and what type of leader he is and what it takes to lead,” Berhalter said. “It’s not that he was uncomfortable before, but now it’s more natural. As he gets older, he’s understanding how to motivate different people and how to talk to people in a different way.”
And in the transitions between Columbus and his USMNT role, Trapp said he’s learned to cater his message to who he’s working with, especially the younger players who are getting their first taste of national team call-ups at the moment.
“It’s always a rotating camp, and you have guys who get their first cap – and I only have six, so that’s not a ton,” he said. “I remember the first time I was the captain, there was Tim Weah at 18 years old. You’re like, ‘What is going through his mind?’
“My job is to just surround guys who are young with as much positivity and encouragement as I can. That’s really what I try to do there. Here, it’s different. You have established professionals. You have guys who you see every single day.”