CARY, N.C. -- For Wil Trapp, a spot on the U.S. men's national team has long seemed just beyond his reach. Central midfield has long been the deepest position in the player pool, making it difficult for the Columbus Crew SC captain to break through.
Further, on the rare occasions when he was called in, Trapp seemed an odd fit. Jurgen Klinsmann memorably tried him at outside midfield during one January camp, with subpar results.
But over the last three months, Trapp has won the trust of interim coach Dave Sarachan and has seen his stature grow within the national team program. Sure, the roster assembled for Tuesday's match against Paraguay was far short of the A-team, though given the odd state in which the U.S. team finds itself these days, what constitutes a first-choice lineup is amorphous to say the least.
Tuesday's appearance marked the first time Trapp had played for the U.S. outside of a January camp and he was his usual steady self, initiating the attack and effectively organizing his teammates. He also captained the side for the second game running, which is impressive given that he now has just four caps to his name.
"I don't think you get used to it, man," said Trapp about wearing the armband. "It's just one of those things. There's a huge honor in it and there's a lot of weight to it, but I just do my best to help my guys win the game."
He did just that by delivering the defensive play of the game, blocking a shot from Miguel Almiron midway through the second half following a turnover in the Americans' defensive third. It was one of the few times the Atlanta United star shook free all night.
When asked if he felt he had taken the next step in his international career, Trapp said, "Sure. Look, it's always a process and you have to trust it as much as you can and just continue every time you're in camp to build chemistry and try to perform when you're on the field."
Trapp was the fulcrum for a stealthy U.S. trio in the center of the park. None of Trapp, Marky Delgado or Tyler Adams is imposing physically -- all are slight of build and height-wise are 5-foot-9 or shorter -- yet each brings something different to the table.
Adams has the big engine to harry opponents and make lung-busting runs from deep in midfield. Delgado is the crafty connector in the middle third, and it was his deadeye pass to Adams that saw the New York Red Bull win the penalty that was converted by Bobby Wood for the game's only goal. It amounted to a midfield trio whose skill set complemented each other well.
"We knew we wanted to come at them and be positive with our mentality and I thought we did that," said Trapp. "Tyler is going to get after the ball, Marky is smart and good in pockets, and I kind of like to hold a little bit more. I think the compliments were certainly there and they created the goal those two. That was a wonderful thing to see."
Adams seems set to become a mainstay, though his best position is still to be defined. Delgado passed his debut test and, at 22 years of age, has plenty more soccer left in front of him. As for Trapp, Sarachan will only be manager for three more months, at which point he will give way to a more permanent hire.
Said manager might decide that his ideal midfield doesn't have room for a deep-lying distributor. There are also young players with a European pedigree, like Schalke's Weston McKennie, who could very well push Trapp out.
For now, there is no doubting that the Ohio native has done plenty to increase his stock, and he'll benefit from Sarachan being charge for a little longer. There are three games coming up in the May/June time frame, which leaves more time for Trapp to make an impression and keep his national team goals within reach.