The "long ball" conjures images of passes blasted by the goalkeeper or the back line down field for forwards to run on to. Granted, the Crew has played fairly direct in the past, but the team leader in the long ball category isn't Andy Gruenebaum or Matt Lampson. Wil Trapp leads the team with 5.5 accurate long balls per game.
To clarify, Opta considers a long ball to be any pass over 25 yards and the team numbers reflect that. Gruenebaum and Lampson still do boot the ball down field, both average 5.0 per game, but no one else comes within 1 of Trapp's total.
Trapp's average puts him in good company. League wide, he would rank 10th for most completed long passes. The players ahead of him read as a who's who of distributors. Ball playing midfielders like Montreal's Patrice Bernier (7.6), Portland's Will Johnson (7.1), and Sporting Kansas City's Oriol Rosell (6.6) lead the way.
The numbers are notable, but they also do provide value to an offense that has been predictable at times. Trapp isn't sending cutting through balls to set up goals, but he is reliably able to switch the ball from side to side which pulls a defense out of shape and will open up space as the defense shifts to cover the new point of attack.
Trapp's ability to play the accurate long ball is also a case of addition by subtraction. Since claiming his spot in the starting lineup, he's played with three different partners. Bernardo Anor, Danny O'Rourke, and Tony Tchani. O'Rourke's appearance is an aberration, short handed in Salt Lake, but both Anor and especially Tchani have looked very good in midfield since Trapp arrived.
In the case of Tchani, his weaknesses are clear. He tends to spray his passes and struggles with longer passes. Trapp can now reliably switch the ball and Tchani can look forward. If Tchani does turn the ball over, it's in more attacking positions while trying to create, not in midfield where opponents can pounce and turn it into a goal scoring chance.
Going beyond his long ball stats, Trapp is also the most accurate passer on the team, completing 85% of his passes, attempting 50 per game (one shy of Federico Higuain's team leading 51 attempts). He's also tied with Eddie Gaven for second on the team in key passes per game with 1.3. That's better than all but Federico Higuain.
Trapp is still adjusting to MLS. He's not a physical player and can get run off the ball, but he's the best passer of any of the defensive players on the team and second only to Higuain in his contributions in getting his teammates involved. That type of skill is paying dividends already.