When Wil Trapp first arrived in Minnesota in January, the Loons’ new holding midfielder set up and did his own drills separate from the team’s training sessions.
United fullback Chase Gasper said Trapp’s overtime work was focused on refining techniques by identifying space on the field and taking his first touch into that area.
“It’s fun to watch him do the drills, too, because of how intense he is,” Gasper said. “So from Day 1, he’s been an amazing teammate, and we are really lucky to have him.”
The Loons’ first offseason move last December was to sign Trapp as a free agent after he finished one disjointed season with Inter Miami. The 28-year-old Ohio native said Miami’s culture with Spanish as a first language made it difficult to assimilate. And his lack of playing time meant 2020, beyond the pandemic, was a year to forget.
Trapp has had a much better 2021. He is one of five Loons players to start all 10 games for Minnesota this season and has been a part of the club’s tighter defensive shape during its current six-game unbeaten streak. They have four clean sheets during the run.
United will look to extend San Jose’s seven-game winless lull at 7 p.m. Saturday at Allianz Field. The Loons are 4-4-2 on the season, the Earthquakes 3-7-1.
Upon Trapp’s arrival, he was labeled as a “regista,” or deep-lying playmaker, more than an enforcing defensive midfielder primarily tasked with keeping opposing forwards from reaching the Loons’ back line.
Loons manager Adrian Heath said he subscribes a “little bit” to the “regista” label for Trapp. Former AC Milan and Juventus star Andrea Pirlo, who finished his playing career with New York City FC, was deemed a regista. He wasn’t known for his tackling or covering a lot of ground, but had a proclivity to put passes where and when teammates could be dangerous.
“I think one of the hardest things in football is knowing what you are good at,” Heath said. “Wil never tries to do things — you don’t see him running with the ball trying to beat people. He knows that he is a continuity player. Get in good spots and give it to people ahead of him, get it to people like (Emanuel) Reynoso, give it to people like (Franco) Fragapane, Robin Lod and support the game. Just keeps the ball moving.
“His distribution is excellent. He gives it to people when they want it, not when he’s finished with it, which is a huge thing.”
Trapp’s 89.7 passing completion percentage on the season is good, but it falls outside the top 30 in MLS, according to wyscout. In last Saturday’s 1-0 victory at Portland, Trapp completed an impressive 93 percent of his passes (14 of 15) into the Timbers’ final third.
Trapp was asked Tuesday about how he approaches disturbing the ball. ‘Pass it to the good players,” he quipped. Trapp passed it 20 times to Reynoso in the Timbers game, more than double any other teammate that game, so on face vale that’s true. But Trapp added the key to his distribution is preparation.
“What you are looking for before the ball comes to you,” Trapp said. “Because if I can give them an extra second by playing one-touch instead of two-touch, then that is what I have to do. … At times, it’s a little subtle.”
In the past three games, Trapp has been in midfield with Hassani Dotson, whom Heath said has been terrific and won’t lose his spot. Jan Gregus, who has returned from playing for Slovakia in the European Championship, could have been a candidate to reinsert himself in that role next to Trapp.
“Wil is really good on the ball,” Dotson said. “I think his communication is really good — in terms of positioning players and he also listens very well. I will say, ‘Hey, Wil, we need to try this,’ and he is right there with me.”
When Fragapane was involved in accusations of a racial slur during the Timbers game, it was Trapp who was involved in the huddle with the referee to figure out what happened even though Trapp doesn’t wear the captain’s armband. When the club was asked follow-up questions about the incident during the week, they turned to Trapp to provide some answers.
“He’s almost like a (unheralded) leader, probably doesn’t get as much credit for leading as he deserves,” Dotson said.