Area players get first starts in Crew victory
It was a landmark day for soccer in central Ohio.
On July 7, the Columbus Crew started all five of its active players from area high schools and defeated visiting Portland 1-0, ending the Timbers' 15-game unbeaten streak.
Midfielders Wil Trapp (Gahanna, 2010 graduate) and Konrad Warzycha (Dublin Jerome, 2007) earned their first MLS starts and goalkeeper Matt Lampson (St. Charles, 2008) -- in his first start this season -- made a save in the 87th minute to preserve his first career shutout.
The trio joined defenders Danny O'Rourke (Worthington Kilbourne, 2001) and Chad Barson (Olentangy, 2009) in the lineup.
"I felt it was time for these guys to step on the field and show what they can do," said coach Robert Warzycha, Konrad's father. "That's why they were on the field at the same time. I did feel like I was taking a risk, getting them starts against a Portland team that had a long unbeaten streak. But I also knew that they would go out there and play really well.
"I felt they played well. We scored early, got a red card and played a man-up. They stayed focused, which is hard sometimes because you feel when you have a man-up, you should win and that it will be given to you."
Lampson wasn't tested much. His only save came on the late shot from forward Darlington Nagbe.
"It was a surreal feeling (to get my first shutout)," said Lampson, who learned of his second career start an hour before the game, as Andy Gruenebaum had a sore shoulder. "We had a complete performance. The 10 guys in front of me gave a full team effort and the back four really made my job easy. Danny O'Rourke, Chad Marshall, Chad Barson and Josh Williams were great. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come, once Andy passes the torch."
Trapp was named Man of the Match.
"It was extremely exciting to step out on the field in front of friends and family and represent the Columbus Crew," he said. "It was just a wonderful experience. Plus, I played pretty well and, most importantly, we won. After the first couple of touches, I was fine and it was just about playing soccer."
Trapp was a member of the U.S. national team that recently competed in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey, and he said that experience was beneficial. He left the Crew three times for training.
"Playing against great opponents in a pressure situation helped prepare me for my first MLS start," said Trapp, who played all 270 minutes in the World Cup and was team captain for a 1-1 tie against France on June 24. "I figured if I could play well there, I could hold my own (in MLS).
"The biggest thing this does is gain respect from my teammates. I've been gone so much that gaining their respect was tough to do. You can only earn their respect between the lines and battling with and against them. I hope I can build off of this."
Barson believes Trapp would have earned a start earlier if it weren't for his national team duties.
"He was gone for a good portion of the season, but he had a great game and it's fun to have him out there," Barson said. "You're willing to work for him when he's on the field."
Trapp got a heads-up from O'Rourke that he might get to start.
"Danny told me to be ready because it could happen," Trapp said. "He pulled me aside three times before the game started to calm me down and give me words of wisdom, which really helped. It's great that the older guys interact with the young guys and give you advice. Danny has been here and doing this for a long time and he knows the ropes."
Konrad Warzycha had no clue that he would be starting.
"I didn't know the lineup until about two hours before the game," he said. "When I saw my mom afterward, she had this smirk on her face and I knew that she had known. But she didn't say anything.
"My dad and I don't talk about the team when we're together. If it's about soccer, we leave it for training time or game time. We have to separate our relationship. When we're away from the Crew, he's my father and we don't talk about the team. We leave the soccer stuff for the training sessions and matches."
Barson also credits the veterans for helping the young, homegrown players adjust.
"I'm fortunate to have trained with the first-team guys in high school and in college I trained with them during the summer, so that really helped my development," he said. "It benefited me to get into a professional environment at a young age, seeing how those guys handled themselves day in and day out. I learned by observing and listening. They do a good job of letting you know what to expect and they've treated us well."
O'Rourke, who is in his seventh season with the Crew, said handing down knowledge to the younger players is part of his job.
"That's one of the roles of the leaders," he said. "I was fortunate enough to learn from great leaders like Frankie (Hejduk) and Duncan (Oughton), so hopefully I can add a little bit to what they taught me. The more experience you can get these young guys, the better. The homegrown players have such an opportunity to improve their game at a young age so that they can be the foundation of the future.
"In the game against Portland, with a new system and some young guys in there, we should be proud of our performance. The young guys held their own. Chad Barson has been great filling in at either outside back, showing his versatility. Konrad adds a big body and a shot from distance for us, which is huge. Wil Trapp did a great job sustaining possession and keeping the tempo in a difficult position for a rookie. And Lampson filled in great for Andy like he's done in the past. It's nice to have confidence in (Lampson) when something happens to Andy."
Coach Warzycha was pleased with his young players, as it was a positive sign for the development of the Crew Academy. But he seemed most thrilled for Lampson, who was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2007 but has been cancer free since 2008.
"(Lampson) has a presence in goal and he's big and vocal," coach Warzycha said. "(Soccer) is probably easy for him after battling cancer. Winning that battle is much tougher than winning a soccer game. He's got a drive that you think comes from getting a second chance. He gives his all."
Lampson said he has learned to cherish these moments.
"I am very proud of what I have been able to accomplish," he said. "The message I want to send to survivors and to those battling cancer is that life becomes so great once you've beaten cancer. You've got to stay upbeat and try to beat it no matter how difficult it is.
"You make the most of every opportunity and you can make a difference with others' lives. I have been able to reach out and touch so many other people. It's just an incredible feeling to help them any way I can."
*OHIO TIES -- The Crew's game against Portland had many other Ohio connections.
Lampson and Konrad Warzycha both played at Ohio State. Williams attended Copley High School near Akron and played for Cleveland State.
Barson and Trapp were teammates at the University of Akron. Crew forward Ben Speas, who was an unused sub against Portland, also formerly played at Akron.
The Timbers are guided by coach Caleb Porter, who coached at Akron the previous seven seasons. The Zips, who won the NCAA Division I championship in 2010, also have three players on the Timbers' roster in Nagbe and midfielders Ben Zemanski and Michael Nanchoff.
"Caleb Porter is a great guy and I respect him," Barson said. "He taught me so much about the sport and becoming a pro. It was nice to see their three guys out there, too. Seeing old friends and teammates I grew up and played with enjoy success is really fun."
"It was fantastic to see how many Ohio players were in the game," Trapp said. "I don't think Porter was happy after the game, but he did tell me he was proud of me."