The last time Columbus Crew SC went to Children's Mercy Park, May 4 2014, it was not a result the visiting side was proud of. Sporting Kansas City was the better team throughout the game and handed the Black & Gold a 2-0 defeat, the second of the Gregg Berhalter era.
For one player in particular, that match was a major letdown.
"I think walking off the field that day, I was mostly disappointed in A, the loss and B, not being there to end the game with [my] teammates," Columbus midfielder Wil Trapp told Massive Report this week. "We were battling back to try and get a goal and then when you go a man down it just makes it even more difficult. So I was disappointed in that to let your teammates down."
After conceding just 10 minutes into the match on a Jacob Peterson goal, Crew SC were looking for an equalizer when Trapp was issued a second yellow card and therefore ejected from the game.
Trapp picked up the first caution just before halftime on a Sporting clearance out of the back. Kansas City’s Paulo Nagamura rose to head the ball and Trapp came in from behind and collided head to head with the midfielder with little intention of going after the ball.
A yellow card with 45 minutes to play typically isn’t a big deal for Trapp, but on that day it was.
In the 80th minute, Trapp picked up his second yellow card on a play... well, we’ll let him explain it.
"That one was kind of a broken play," the midfielder said. "It was a loose ball and they’re going on maybe a three v. two. So it was kind of an all or nothing play because the chances are, they might get a chance on goal. So you slide, you try to make a play and I just caught him too late."
Benny Feilhaber was on the receiving end of Trapp’s slide and was moving towards goal after the Columbus midfielder lost possession in his own third of the field. If Trapp hadn’t already been shown a yellow, it wouldn’t have been more than a smart professional foul. Instead it was the youngster’s first professional red card.
"I think it was just the disappointment of letting my teammates down," Trapp reiterated. "It’s just a long walk. No one likes to do that. But in a game where we needed everyone on the field to fight and battle back, we didn’t have that. So it was disappointing."
Due to the red card, Trapp served his mandatory one-game suspension the following match. Without him, Crew SC lost 1-0 to the Houston Dynamo marking the first losing streak of the season for the Black & Gold.
Two years later and Trapp returns to the scene of his sending off, looking for a better result this time. His Crew SC team finds itself near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with one win in the last eight matches.
A year ago, the Black & Gold turned around a similarly slow start in July, going 3-1-1 during the month, to rectify a season that ended in a trip to the MLS Cup Final. Despite a rash of injuries to his side, Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter believes the players have what it takes to make a push not unlike last year’s,
"I think that one thing about this team is they’ve done it before so they know they can do it," he said on Friday. "It’s a group that has the ‘next man up’ mentality that even if a guy’s injured, we still have high expectations for what we can get out of games. So because of that, I think we can."
If the turnaround is going to start, fans would love to see it soon. While there still remains 19 games in the MLS regular season, Columbus has not looked like one of the top teams in Major League Soccer as expected. Going into Kansas City and getting a victory would certainly help alter that perception.
"Going to play in KC, it’s an exciting atmosphere. There’s a lot of energy in the stadium. There’s a lot of pressure from their fans," Trapp said.
"It will be a fun one this Sunday. Obviously it’s a nationally televised game and they’re a team that at home, certainly they rile up their energy. They haven’t had the greatest home record as of late, but still they’re a tough team to beat when they’re at home at times."
For Crew SC as a whole, the goal will be to defeat Sporting on Sunday evening. For Trapp, he not only wants to help his team to a victory, but also not be forced off the field unnecessarily.
Going into Children’s Mercy Park is already a daunting task. Add in Columbus’ winless record on the road in 2016 and that assignment becomes that much more difficult for Crew SC. This is why keeping all 11 players on the field for 90 minutes is key and Trapp will be going out of his way to make sure that is the case.