Across the history of soccer, the shadings of the midfielder position are rich and varied. From destroyers in front of the backline to trequartistas behind the frontline to box-to-box midfielders ranging all over the middle third, the players connecting the defense to the attack have done so in a myriad of ways. The newest member of Minnesota United, midfielder Wil Trapp, brings a new wrinkle in that role to the Loons: the regista.
The 27-year-old Trapp comes to Minnesota following a year at Inter Miami after playing the first seven seasons of his career with Columbus Crew SC. A native of Columbus and the team’s fourth homegrown signing (coming after former Loon Matt Lampson), Trapp grew tremendously with the Crew in his time there, eventually ascending to the captaincy and earning a regular spot on the USMNT, where he’s racked up 20 appearances since 2015. 2015 was also the year the Crew made a run to the MLS Cup Final, with Trapp often connecting with then and current teammate Ethan Finlay.
A highlight reel from that year provides a few examples of the kind of playmaking Trapp is expected to bring to the table:
While he wears the number 6 and lines up in front of the centerbacks, Trapp is neither a hard-nosed bulldog like Osvaldo Alonso nor a wide-ranging downhill player akin to Jan Gregus or Hassani Dotson. Instead, Trapp’s game is more similar to a 6 like Ilie Sanchez for Sporting Kansas City. He’s capable of knocking down passes and standing up to opposing forays into the final third, but his real utility comes in getting the ball back and then redirecting the attack with long diagonals or short, sharp passes to the wings or higher up the field. MNUFC fans might be most familiar with this approach from former Loon Francisco Calvo, although Alonso has also been known to ping a long pass forward to exploit a swathe of space.
For a little more background, here’s a helpful and in-depth video about the history of the regista — or deep-lying playmaker — and the role’s foremost practitioner, Andrea Pirlo:
Since signing Emanuel Reynoso last year, MNUFC as a team became less direct — that is, playing long balls directly into streaking attackers — and more focused on the interplay between their dangerous cadre of attacking midfielders. As a result, we saw less aggressive pushing from fullbacks Romain Metanire and Chase Gasper and fewer crosses into the box from wide positions.
The acquisition of Trapp, it would seem, points to Head Coach Adrian Heath’s desire to not have to choose one or the other of these approaches, but instead to be able to flex between them. One can imagine Trapp starting the offense by sending diagonal balls to overlapping fullbacks as the wingers tuck inside and overload the defense at the edge of the box. With a strong backline behind him and attackers like Robin Lod and Emanuel Reynoso who have shown an ability to defend from the front, Trapp should be liberated to set the tempo and play passes out of the back.