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Columbus Crew Must Survive Life Without Trapp Against Houston Dynamo

After receiving two yellow cards in the Crew's Sunday game, midfielder Wil Trapp will be suspended for Saturday's meeting with the Houston Dynamo and will be difficult to replace.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, the Columbus Crew and the Houston Dynamo will meet for the first time this season after each team played a weekend game. In this match up, both teams could be without their central midfield anchors.

For Houston, Ricardo Clark has missed the last two games after suffering a concussion against the New York Red Bulls. The midfielder was cleared to play in Sunday's reserve game, but was held out.

Clark is a key member of the Dynamo midfielder, playing both the disrupter and adding a bit of an offensive spark with his dribbling ability and and long-range shooting efforts. The holding midfielder has earned 34 caps for the U.S. Men's National Team, giving him a wealth of experience that is hard for Houston to replace.

Wil Trapp will certainly miss the game for the Crew due to suspension. The 21-year old was issued a red card in the second half of Columbus' 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, after receiving two yellow cards.

Up until the red card was issued in the 79th minute of the game, Trapp had played every minute for the Black and Gold. The homegrown product has two assists on the season, including a spectacular effort in the closing stages against D.C. United, where he won the ball at one end of the pitch and provided the pass for the equalizer.

The Dynamo took time to adjust to life without Clark. After the midfielder was forced to depart in the 63rd minute against New York, the Red Bulls scored twice in a 4-0 win. In their 1-1 home draw with the Portland Timbers, Houston missed Clark's steady presence, conceding 58.7% of the possession.

Although the Dynamo got back on track in a 4-1 road win against Chivas USA on Saturday, it has been apparent they miss Clark.

The Crew will be without Trapp for the first time this season, and head coach Gregg Berhalter believes the midfielder is irreplaceable.

"I don't think there is a like-for-like replacement in our whole league for Wil Trapp," Berhalter told reporters after Sunday's match.

"I think he's a good player. For his age, I think he's one of the better midfielders in the league. So the short answer is no, there isn't a like-for-like replacement. We'll have to find someone who can perform."

Trapp not only performs his midfield duties of disrupting attacks and spreading the ball around to his teammates, but he also helps allow Berhalter's system to work.

With the outside backs so involved in the possession-based attack, Trapp drops into a central defender role and the outside backs move out wide in order to provide cover. This is not something any player can do, as Trapp's smarts allow him to recognize the appropriate situations.

The question becomes, who fills in for Trapp for the game?

There are several options at Berhalter's disposal, though none of them are Trapp.

Central midfielder Agustin Viana had been in the 18-man match day roster for each of the first seven games. He was replaced on Sunday by Daniel Paladini, who was recovering from preseason knee surgery.

These two would seem to be the most likely replacements. When asked early this year about Trapp's backup, Berhalter pointed to Paladini, but that does not mean he will go directly to the former Chicago Fire midfielder.

Viana, who has played left back for Columbus in the past, would be a more defensive-minded option, if that is what Berhalter is seeking. Paladini describes himself as a box-to-box midfielder, meaning he would get more involved in the attack than Trapp normally does.

There are other options as well. Bernardo Anor, who has been the Crew's starting winger in seven of the eight games, has played centrally in the past. He would also provide more of an offensive spark if moved to the middle of the pitch. Justin Meram could also fill in the spot, as he often plays in the "Federico Higuain role" in practice so would be comfortable in the middle.

Another possibility would be playing a central defender in midfield, in order to provide that defensive cover when Trapp would normally drop back. In this case, Michael Parkhurst or Eric Gehrig could be used in a different role.

As Berhalter stated, there is no replacing the young midfielder, just biding time until he can return.

The Black and Gold will hope to get a result in Houston without him before he may return to the lineup Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Projected Starting Lineups

Columbus Crew vs Houston Dynamo - Football tactics and formations