Wil Trapp seemed like one of the least likely players in MLS to be traded. At 27, he is already a club legend for the b. He’s played at least 1,000 minutes for the Crew every year since 2013, and he hasn’t missed a minute of a Columbus postseason since the start of his tenure. As a Homegrown defensive midfielder and Columbus native, Trapp has been at the center of everything for the Crew.
MLSsoccer.com claims his nickname is “Wily Franchise,” and while I’ve never heard anyone call him that, it feels pretty accurate. After last week, though, he will have to become The Franchise for another club. Columbus traded him to expansion Inter Miami for $100,000 of General Allocation Money, with another $200,000 possible to be sent based on incentives. It was a shockingly cheap price given how close Trapp has come to a (relatively) lucrative European transfer in the past.
A big move by Columbus
Moving on from Trapp is a big step for Caleb Porter and Columbus. They will transition from one ball-moving Akron midfielder to another, with newly-acquired Darlington Nagbe partnering with Artur in the center of the field. There was always going to be an odd man out between Trapp, Nagbe, and Artur, but it is mildly surprising that Trapp turned out to be it.
Stylistically, it is hard to argue with the Crew’s rationale. A midfield with both Trapp and Nagbe risks overlapping skillsets and sacrificing defensive aptitude. Trapp is known for his lack of physicality and athleticism. Partnering him with a more mobile No. 8, the way Gregg Berhalter did for years with Tony Tchani, is a necessity, and Nagbe might as well be Tchani’s polar opposite.
That will not make it any weirder to see Trapp wearing colors other than black and gold. There was a time when many considered him the future of the US national team’s midfield, the heir apparent to Michael Bradley. That dream has not come to pass, though he has earned his share of first team caps. His defense and mobility are more of an issue at the international level, and he struggles to make plus passes into attack against higher-quality opposition. He is no more than a backup in the USMNT pool.
Trapp a centerpiece for Miami
For Miami, though, he could be a centerpiece. With Diego Alonso the manager of an expansion team trying to craft an identity, Trapp makes sense as a deep-lying regista. He is a high IQ player who excels in a tactical, possession-based system, receiving the ball between the center backs and connecting play down the field. His diagonal switches can be pristine, and once the ball ends up near the opposing goal, he is capable of circulating possession.
Miami has Victor Ulloa on the roster to act as a defensive complement to Trapp. Ulloa isn’t an All-Star, but he is a competent player to have in midfield. He’s not a turnstile. As long as he can dribble some into the space that Trapp creates, he will be an effective partner.
The composition of Miami’s team is interesting right now, and Trapp’s insertion only adds more intrigue. There are a number of younger players trying to break out as MLS starters or rotation players. Ben Sweat will try to regain the form he attained when he broke into the USMNT picture with NYCFC. Mikey Ambrose, Luis Argudo, Jay Chapman, Grant Lillard, and David Norman Jr. all could see time, and it will be particularly interesting to see if Chapman gets real minutes.
19-year-old Matias Pellegrini is the Designated Player, and thus the attacking centerpiece. There have been numerous other rumors connecting them to high-priced talents. Those signings could come late in this window, or perhaps in the summer.
We know now, though, that Trapp will be at the base of Alonso’s midfield. It is a valuable new opportunity for Trapp, and a fascinating indication of Alonso’s stylistic intent.