Though recent results have not gone the Crew's way, one bright spot for the Black & Gold is the progress the team's rookies have shown with changes in the lineup over the past month. First-year pros Ryan Finley and Wil Trapp have earned the chance to play extended minutes of late, embracing the opportunity to learn from each match.
Building off three matches representing the United States at the FIFA U-20 World Cup earlier this summer, Trapp has started in each of the Crew's four matches since returning from the tournament, injecting a breath of fresh air to the Crew midfield.
The 20-year-old Homegrown Player is becoming more confident with each match.
"Over time, over the past three or four games, I think I've grown more comfortable with my role," Trapp said. "Playing with the guys around me, I have more of an understanding. You can be in training, but once you're in the game, it's different.
"I think I'm coming into my own a little bit and getting more comfortable."
Head Coach Robert Warzycha has been pleased with the progress Trapp and other rookies have shown despite the recent the club's recent troubles.
"He's a young player and obviously he's learning how to play in Major League Soccer," the Head Coach said of Trapp. "He brings good passing to the game, but obviously he has to learn a few other things. He just has to gain some experience. He's helping defensively, he's helping on offense, but the bottom line is we need to win some games.
"There are a few young guys on the field now and the playing time will definitely benefit them in the future."
Following a shoulder injury to striker Aaron Schoenfeld on July 20, Ryan Finley has seen his minutes increase as an attacking option off the bench. The Black & Gold's First Round pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft played 45 minutes against the Houston Dynamo last week, creating several chances in the 3-1 defeat.
Like Trapp, Finley is growing with experience.
"Anytime you can get into an MLS game, especially as a rookie, it's definitely something you learn from: your mistakes and what you're doing right and wrong," Finley explained. "Being a rookie, you're going to make mistakes out there. I think the older guys have been really supportive."
The Notre Dame product continued: "Every game, being a rookie, you get more and more comfortable out there. You get used to the speed and the guys being bigger and faster. Every game you can get out there and play it brings your confidence a little higher."
Growing into the pro game hasn't come without difficulty, however. Finley admits he should have put away a few of his chances against Houston.
"In college, you're through on goal and you can pick your spot," the rookie forward said. "Here, it's kind of a bang-bang play. Obviously I can learn a lot from the game on Saturday. I went back and watched the second half; I should've pulled the trigger a little quicker.
"I'm definitely getting more comfortable every time I'm out there and my confidence is growing."
While Warzycha is happy with the presence Finley provided in the final third against the Dynamo, he too hopes Finley's ability to finish opportunities will come with more playing time.
"Ryan is very opportunistic, he's getting chances." Warzycha said. "But it's one thing to get chances, the second thing is to score goals.
"We mimic the game here in Obetz at our training facility, trying to get players in game-like situations. Sometimes in the game, they're in the moment and making different decisions. I hope that next time he's making the right decisions."
While winning is at its utmost importance right now, Warzycha won't shy from putting more youngsters on the field as he tries to find a successful combination.
"You have to keep some kind of balance," he said.
"We're putting the best team we can on the field. If a young player is playing better than a veteran, then obviously he's going to be on the field."