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Hometown Hero Wil Trapp has a Strange Person to Thank This Weekend for MLS Success

As Trapp prepares to face the Timbers in MLS Cup, he's reflecting back on what Portland's coach means to him.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Wil Trapp wasn't always the player Columbus Crew SC fans have grown to love and appreciate. There once was a time where he didn't want to sit in the midfield and help out the defense.

In high school, Trapp was an attacking player that wanted to get forward and be a part of the attack at Gahanna Lincoln on the way to a 2009 state championship.

It wasn't until he got to college at Akron that he began to morph into the player he is for the Black & Gold, changing his mindset from the offensive third to the defensive half.

"It's always difficult when you're growing up playing a certain way your whole career and then [Coach is] telling you to do something maybe a little different," Trapp said of the change. "You have to be adaptable and I think that was something I really worked on and has paid dividends."

Dividends indeed. On Sunday afternoon, Trapp will start at defensive midfield for his hometown team in the MLS Cup Final in the town he's always called home. On the opposing sideline will be Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter, the man who saw what Trapp could become and moved him to a deeper role.

"The evolution of my couple years at Akron were huge in my development and making it to where I am now and I owe him a lot," Trapp said of Porter. "Just the mentality, the soccer awareness, was something that he really instilled in me and I'm very grateful for it."

Before taking the managerial position with the Timbers in 2013, Porter was the head coach of the Zips for seven seasons. He coached Trapp in 2011 and 2012, helping to form the player that returned to Columbus and joined Crew SC, the team a young Trapp cheered for growing up.

In his third year with the Black & Gold, Trapp has helped guide the club to its second Eastern Conference championship and will get to play in MLS Cup in front of his friends and family Sunday.

"I guess it's always been a dream for sure, but putting that dream into reality has been a tough journey so far," the midfielder said this week. "It's exciting. It's great for the city, it's great for this club, and being a Columbus guy, it's even more fun."

This will be only the second time in 20 years of Major League Soccer's history that MLS Cup will be held in Columbus. This is the first time Crew SC will play for the championship at the friendly confines of MAPFRE Stadium.

Naturally, everyone Trapp has ever known wants tickets to the sold out match.

"Being a local guy, you have tons of people coming out of the woodwork for tickets," Trapp said. "I've already kind of decided I'm going to cut it off at this number and that's all I got. If you don't get a ticket, that's how it works, but I've taken care of the close family and friends."

A veteran move by a young player, but that should be no surprise. Since day one as a professional, Trapp has handled his business as if he's been doing it for years. But will a game like this in front of his hometown make a difference on Sunday?

Former Crew SC forward and now soccer analyst Brian McBride doesn't believe Trapp will be any different in the Final.

"I think Wil's got enough experience," he told Massive Report this week. "I don't think he's thinking about, just because it's his hometown club any more. I think this is something that he's worked very hard to get to and I think he looks at it like anything else."

After his career with Columbus, McBride moved over to England for four seasons before returning to MLS and the Chicago Fire, the closest thing to a hometown team for the Illinois native. During his three years with the Fire, McBride tried to bring a championship home, so he knows about the anxiety that could give a player.

"I don't think it will add more pressure," McBride said of Trapp. "That pressure thing I think goes off after the first year of playing and actually making the grade, which he's done and surpassed. So I think you're going to see a very motivated and excited Wil Trapp rather than a nervous or a questionable [player]."

Sunday will be a big day for all the players involved, but even bigger for Trapp. The midfielder is representing his home city and playing in front of all of his friends and family, or at least the ones who could get tickets.

Plotting against him and his teammates will be his former coach, the man who he credits for making his career possible. While Trapp says he owes Porter a lot, Sunday will not be the day he pays him back.

"I owe him a great deal," Trapp said.

"But it doesn't change the fact that Sunday we're going to go out there and try and beat his team."