When Wil Trapp sat down at Columbus Crew Stadium on the first official day of the preseason, he said he was blown away with how quickly his first MLS offseason flew by. And for the 21-year-old jet-setter, that makes sense.
While many players spent their offseason resting, lifting weights and doing light training with local teammates, Trapp spent two weeks in December training with Dutch Eredivisie side PEC Zwolle, where Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter began his professional career in 1994.
Trapp said that he began the process without knowing what to expect, and had to trust in the quality of play in the Netherlands.
“I didn't know exactly what it was going to be like, going into it,” Trapp told MLSsoccer.com. “I obviously knew the football side of it was going to be top notch, for sure. But I had a great time, I learned a lot.”
The midfielder became a regular starter for the Crew in his rookie season in 2013 after gaining international experience at the U-20 World Cup with the United States last year, but Trapp said that the competition with Zwolle was inspiring.
“I think it kind of lit a fire under me, because there are players over there who were better than I was,” he said. “I want to see how much better I can get, especially with a new coach. I think he wants to bring some of the things he learned when he played there to us as well.”
The Berhalter connection was obvious in the arrangement, and Trapp even watched a Zwolle match with former Berhalter teammate Arne Slot.
“We got to kind of analyze the game in a different light,” Trapp said. “He pointed out things that I probably hadn't really thought about when I was first watching. So that was great, to be able to analyze and break down their style of play and roles of people in my position.”
But training with the Dutch squad was where Trapp really made strides in improving his game.
“Their day-to-day training environment is a perfectionist environment; every touch is clean, every pass is on the ground and to your feet,” he said. “I think the speed of play improved my awareness and my movement and how to find angles and support.”
Trapp is unquestionably a main cog in Berhalter’s plans in Columbus, but the Crew boss is staying tight-lipped about his specific role in the midfield, though he did admit that Trapp’s responsibilities would change in 2014.
“I think it will be different,” Berhalter said. “The execution of it will be different. That's something that we'll wait and see.”
Regardless of his role under Berhalter, Trapp knows that in a young Crew squad, he will need to be a field general more than in his rookie season, a challenge that he relishes.
“That rookie stage is over; I know most of the guys around me, and in my role you kind of have to be a leader,” Trapp said. “You can't be quiet; you can't hide. And I welcome that. I enjoy trying to make those around me better, whether I say something or it's just how I'm playing.”