Wil Trapp was born in Gahanna in 1993 — a year before the Columbus Crew SC was founded and three years before it played its first Major League Soccer game at Ohio Stadium — meaning that the midfielder has never known a Columbus without a professional soccer team. Now, with a franchise move to Austin, Texas, potentially in the cards, Trapp is struggling with the reality that his hometown team might not exist in 2019.
“To look back in 20 years and to not be able to bring my son or daughter to a game and say, ‘Hey, look, your dad was the captain of Columbus Crew SC’ would be interesting because it’s been such a paramount and integral part of my life growing up,” Trapp said in a late-November interview. “I think I was 3 years old [when I went to my first Crew game]. … From an upbringing standpoint I always expected [the team] to be here because it has been here since I was old enough to remember.”
At the same time, with the team deep in playoff preparation — Trapp was speaking days before the Crew played Toronto FC to a scoreless draw in the opener of the Eastern Conference Finals, which concluded with a match that took place on Wednesday, Nov. 29, in the hours after Alive went to print — the midfielder has done his best to ignore outside distractions and keep his focus squarely on the pitch.
“It’s essential we do that at the moment because of the magnitude of the games. At the same time, you can’t be too callous to what’s going on, or too oblivious to it, because it’s there every time you pick up your phone or check social media,” he said. “As players, we’ve been fortunate to see this grassroots movement supporting us to a wonderful degree. … It all comes down to control. Each one of us has a sphere of influence and an arena of control that only we can affect. For us as players, that’s on the field.”
Trapp first learned of the potential relocation in a mid-October team meeting, the evening before Grant Wahl broke the news publicly in an article for Sports Illustrated. In the immediate aftermath, Trapp dealt with phone calls and text messages from friends and family looking for inside information, as well as a social media flurry that, while overwhelmingly critical of team ownership, has remained largely supportive of the players.
While the potential move has shocked the Crew fan base, the team has taken it in stride, according to Trapp, owing to the business-first nature of modern professional sports, where finances often trump fandom.
“I think, for the most part, players are always prepared to move on and leave. It does add a wrinkle when it could be the entire club that’s moving, but from a player perspective you’re prepared for things to change at any minute,” Trapp said.
And while Trapp has done his best to remain playoff focused, he has at least considered the possibility of a final lame-duck season in Columbus before the team heads to Texas.
“If the decision is to leave, next year will certainly be an unprecedented year of challenges, I think, for the front office with ticket sales, of course, as well as players realizing how it will look and feel in the stadium where, if this happens, maybe the fans won’t be there,” he said. “Or we could win the MLS Cup this year and it could be a packed house every game.”