Midfielder Wil Trapp became the 16th player recognized as U.S. Soccer Young Male Athlete of the Year on Wednesday. Trapp was a significant leader for the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team during its runner-up finish at the 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship and a difficult group stage at the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey. That catapulted Trapp into his role with his home state Columbus Crew, earning regular starting opportunities during the second half of the MLS season.
Trapp caught up with ussoccer.com about his successful year and joining a Young Male Athlete of the Year list that has featured the likes of National Team players such as Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley.
ussoccer.com: Congratulations on being named 2013 U.S. Soccer Youth Male Athlete of the Year. What is your initial reaction to earning this award?
Wil Trapp: “It’s definitely humbling. It’s hard to put into words right now. It’s an honor to be recognized and seen by your peers and the country as a whole.”
ussoccer.com: Now that your first MLS season is over, have you had a chance to reflect on this past year both with the Crew and on the international
stage with the U-20s?
WT: “Yes, I’ve had some time to think about everything, and it’s been an awesome year. Coming in with the Under-20s and qualifying for the World Cup, then coming back to make my debut with the Crew, where I was fortunate to earn a lot of playing time. When I think back to just a year ago, I was still playing college soccer at Akron. It was a completely different picture. I’ve learned so much on and off the field this past year, and I also think I’ve matured quite a bit.”
ussoccer.com: Tell us about your experience playing for U-20 MNT head coach Tab Ramos and having some big responsibilities throughout qualifying and
the U-20 World Cup.
WT: “I think that Tab showed a lot of trust in me. Having a coach that trusts you and relies on you gives you confidence, and that’s what I took away from the experience. We didn’t do as well as we would have liked as a team, but it was great experience to play at that level and play with that caliber of players. It was unbelievable. Having a leadership role with the team was very helpful in making the transition into my career at the Crew.”
ussoccer.com: What was it like to wear the captain’s armband for the 1-1 draw against eventual U-20 World Cup winner France?
WT: “To wear the armband for the World Cup against my counterpart, Paul Pogba, who is just a world-class player, I was humbled by that experience. It was exciting. It did not change my focus and I did nothing different than if I was not wearing the armband, but definitely that was an exciting moment for me.”
ussoccer.com: How would you assess the U-20 World Cup against that difficult group of Spain, France and Ghana?
WT: “I would first off have to say that we don’t want to make excuses. Yes, we played three quality teams, but you have to win the games, and we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to. Those were quality opponents in France, Spain and Ghana, and many of their players play in Division 1 leagues in Europe, but we still did not accomplish what we wanted. On the other side, I think we showed a lot of confidence and trust, and we played the style that Tab wanted. We had some spells and very good moments, but it was not a full World Cup performance. It was a great learning process.”
ussoccer.com: Do you have a favorite moment from the U-20 World Cup or the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Mexico?
WT: “For me, obviously being the captain of the France game stands out. We drew, but honestly I feel we should have won that game because we gave up a penalty kick. We played pretty well in that game. The Mexico game in qualifying, to play in front of 50,000 people in a final and walk onto the field and hear the boos and cheers, as a player you love that environment.”
ussoccer.com: After the U-20 World Cup, your role on the Columbus Crew really took off. Talk about your debut and then gaining regular minutes for the
rest of the season.
WT: “It was kind of good timing, I guess. I came back from Turkey and the Crew had just played three games in a row. They were resting several guys, so when I came back they threw me into the game. We were playing a first-place Portland Timbers team, and we played very well and got the win, which was huge. It was a huge confidence builder, I kept playing and things just blossomed from there.”
ussoccer.com: What is your focus heading into 2014 now that you have an MLS season under your belt?
WT: “I would say just taking on more responsibility. As a rookie, sometimes you tip-toe around certain things because you want to get to know your teammates. Now they know me and we trust each other. I just want to become more comfortable and continue to do good things, lead more, win more balls, make more forward passes and do all the things that are indicative of my role.”