Two homegrown players competing for Columbus Crew SC have seen their respective careers hit landmark moments over the past few months.
Wil Trapp, a 2011 Gahanna Lincoln High School graduate who already is in his fifth season playing for Crew SC despite being just 24 years old, was announced as the team's captain in early March and signed a multi-year extension March 14.
One of his former teammates at Gahanna, 2013 graduate Alex Crognale, also experienced a life-changing event in December when he became the 11th homegrown player to sign with Crew SC.
With Trapp navigating through a new leadership role while playing at defensive midfielder, Columbus was 1-1-1 after beating D.C. United 2-0 on March 18.
"It's still pretty fresh, but it's a wonderful honor (to be named captain)," said Trapp, who served as a vice captain the past three seasons. "It's something that's always a learning process. That's how I've approached it. It's not going to be perfect right away and it's not going to be terrible right away. You just have to be learning from situations."
Trapp, who became Crew SC's first homegrown all-star in 2016 and has earned two senior U.S. men's national team appearances, led Gahanna to the 2009 Division I state championship and was named the National High School Player of the Year in 2010 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
He then played 45 games for the University of Akron in two seasons before beginning his career with Crew SC in 2013.
After helping Columbus reach the 2015 MLS Cup championship game, where it lost to Portland 2-1, Trapp was awarded the "Breakthrough Performance of the Year" by Crew SC after the 2016 season.
Heading into March 18, the 5-foot-8, 150-pound Trapp had made 95 regular-season appearances, including 92 starts, and had one goal and nine assists.
His most impressive stats, however, had involved his control of the ball.
In 2016, out of 93 MLS players to attempt at least 1,000 passes, Trapp ranked second in passing accuracy at 88.06 percent. He also was one of just two players to successfully complete more than 1,600 passes during the regular season.
"We want to isolate guys in good pockets where they can turn and play the other side of the field," Trapp said. "For myself, it's move the ball out of tight situations and get it to the guys who can move into empty spaces.
"If I thought I would be captain (at age) 24, I probably wouldn't have thought (I'd be in this situation), but at the same time, I'm one of those people always wanting to be pushing the boundaries and I'm never satisfied with where I'm at. In the long run, you just have to keep pushing."
Trapp and Crognale were born less than two years apart and grew up in the same neighborhood, but they played just one season together at Gahanna in 2010, when the Lions were regional runners-up.
Crognale was a first-team all-OCC-Ohio Division selection as a junior in 2011 but elected to play club soccer for Crew SC Academy as a senior.
He was a part of the Crew SC Academy program from 2010-13, helping the U-19 team win the Ohio South State Cup in both 2012 and 2013, and played in several reserve matches for Crew SC, including a full 90 minutes against D.C. United in 2012.
A defender, Crognale played four seasons for the University of Maryland, making 69 starts and finishing with 11 goals and three assists. He led the Terrapins to their third consecutive Big Ten Conference tournament title and was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2016.
Listed at 6-5 and 205 pounds, the 22-year-old Crognale would have been eligible for the MLS SuperDraft had he not signed.
"It's been an awesome transition from the college game to the professional ranks," he said. "I think I've done well. Obviously, there's going to be a learning curve and going to be ups and downs. It's my first two months as a professional, but overall I think I've adapted pretty well and I think I'm improving each day. (Being a professional player is) something I've always wanted to do.
"I'm trying to adapt my game, but I think at this point in my career, I'm trying to fit in and see where the coaching staff sees me to get on the field and help. Overall, I want to improve my entire game, but it's little things, just simple touches, simple tactics, things you learn with experience. It's those things I want to continue to master."
Columbus plays its second home game Saturday, March 25, against Portland.
Crew SC's 16th home game this season will create another reunion of former Gahanna players.
On Sept. 10, it plays host to Sporting Kansas City, which features 2010 Gahanna graduate Saad Abdul-Salaam.
Abdul-Salaam helped Trapp lead the Lions to the state title as a senior and then played for Akron along with Trapp. He is in his third season in MLS.
"There is great excitement in our community having Alex join Wil and Saad in MLS," Gahanna coach Matt Kovach said. "Having Alex join Crew SC and play locally is an added bonus.
"The community is already planning on coming out in big numbers (on) Sept. 10. Our program is planning on being there as well. It will be a special night for our community. For me, what really makes it special is that these are the type of young men we can point to as examples off the field just as much as on the field. They exemplify the type of character and integrity we encourage our players to have. These guys prove that you can achieve your dreams by doing things the right way and that you can do that being from Gahanna, Ohio."
While adjusting to the rigors of college soccer during his time at Maryland, Crognale called Trapp on occasion.
For Trapp, having a former teammate and friend join him on Crew SC has been enjoyable.
"I'm happy for (Crognale)," Trapp said. "He had four strong years at Maryland and now he's really stepping into the next level and with a good mentality. Every day he's learning something new, but he's fortunate that he played in the (Crew SC Academy) system. He trained with us while he was away in college. It's an easier transition and I think he's done a wonderful job."