At this point last year, Wil Trapp was a busy man.
Set to begin his rookie season after signing as a Homegrown Player in December 2012 following two seasons at the University of Akron, Trapp also had international duty on his mind. The CONCACAF U-20 Championship loomed in February with a ticket to the FIFA U-20 Men's World Cup in Turkey on the line.
In 2014, Trapp has less to worry about on the heels of a breakout 2013 that saw the Gahanna, Ohio native earn U.S. Soccer's Young Male Athlete of the Year award and a spot on the CONCACAF U-20 Championship Best XI team. With the Black & Gold, Trapp started each of the 16 matches following his return from the U-20 World Cup in July.
Instead, the 21-year-old center midfielder is focused on building upon his rookie performance and improving the on-field chemistry with his teammates in 2014 -- without having to juggle international play.
"It's exciting, the fact that I can gel with teammates a little more on the field and off the field," Trapp said on Tuesday. "And [there are] no distractions. I'm here, 100-percent focused. I can work more on the specifics with [the Crew] rather than when I was with the U-20s and a different style, different players."
During the 2013 preseason, Trapp felt he got to know his Crew teammates well of the field. However, the on-field cohesion didn't come until late in the season, he admitted.
"I think halfway through the Bradenton trip last year [before leaving for U.S. U-20 camp] helped a lot to be around the guys, but it's different when you're playing as opposed to just being on the bench and not contributing," he explained. "The time away kind of stunted the on-field chemistry, for sure. Off the field, there were no problems. This year, I'm looking forward to not having to worry about that kind of stuff and just jumping right in."
Trapp spent the first half of his rookie campaign on the bench, learning the speed and physicality of MLS play. The opportunity to observe from the sideline served as a learning experience for the midfielder.
"Whenever you're on the bench, you can see the guys playing ahead of you and notice their tendencies and things they're doing well, or not so well," he said. "You can learn from that. That's one of the few advantages of not playing. It's humbling and you have to take the positives from that situation.
"I learned a lot from watching the guys in my position and seeing what the coaches expected from them."
Before players officially report for preseason physicals on Friday, Trapp is already getting a head start by training with teammates Matt Lampson and Tyson Wahl at SuperKick, the Crew's official indoor training home in Lewis Center.
Trapp is anxious to get started under new Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter.
"I feel like the offseason went by in a flash and we're already back," Trapp admitted. "That's what I want. I just want to get back on the field, back playing and training with everyone and just get after it this year.
He continued: "I think [Berhalter] is going to be very hands-on. He's going to be a perfectionist in how he approaches trainings. I think the guys will respond well. Everybody wants to prove themselves with a new coach. I'm excited."
In his sophomore season, Trapp hopes to see his role increase for his hometown club. Even at age 21, the former Akron Zip hopes to become a leader in the middle of the park for the Black & Gold.
"I want to start every game this season," he commented. "I want to hopefully contribute more on the offensive end, get some assists, maybe score some goals.
"Team comes first, I want to be more of a leader on the field in the ways that I can in my position. We need to make the playoffs and go as far as we can. Every team wants to win the MLS Cup, and that should be our goal as well."
The U.S. Men's Senior National Team remains a goal for Trapp as well. After Head Coach Jürgen Klinsmann called-up Trapp's U-20 National Team companions Luis Gil, Shane O'Neill and DeAndre Yedlin for January training camp, that accomplishment may not be far off.
Seeing his colleagues' efforts during the MLS season recognized by Klinsmann serves as motivation for Trapp.
"For me, to see that Jürgen is calling guys like that up, my peers and my teammates, it gives me confidence that hopefully soon it could happen for me as well," he said.
"It lights a fire for me because I see them making it and it makes me want to do the same. It's motivation."