When Minnesota United signed Wil Trapp in the offseason, it represented a changing of the guard at defensive midfielder for the Loons. Incumbent holding mid Ozzie Alonso returned to the club but in a backup role to Trapp.
Trapp has taken lead at that spot, starting 28 of 31 games this season, while Alonso has started 13. Alonso stepped in for Trapp during his three absences, and they played next to each other eight games, including the biggest game to date, the 1-1 draw with Los Angeles FC at Allianz Field on Saturday.
Alonso scored his first goal of the season to help produce a draw and one point to keep pace in a congested Western Conference playoff race. Alonso and Trapp are expected to be paired again when the sixth-place Loons (12-11-9, 45 points) face seventh-place Vancouver (11-9-11, 44 points) at 9 p.m. Wednesday at BC Place in British Columbia.
Manager Adrian Heath said the Alonso-Trapp partnership works well because they are great continuity players with a high levels of consistency. Alonso is in the top 30 in MLS in passing with a 93 completion percentage; Trapp is just outside that category at 89 percent, according to wyscout.com.
“They are both smart; they both get the game,” Heath said. “But more importantly they both get the role we ask of them. They have been very, very good, for sure.”
For the Loons’ primary system, that is the double-pivot, where when one player goes forward, the other stays back and vice versa. “And supporting the game,” Heath added. “Letting the four (attackers) ahead of them get on with it and maybe a fullback joining in. Them two (Alonso and Trapp) being behind the game and being able to facilitate the people in front of them. That is both their strengths.”
Wednesday’s game will be Minnesota’s fourth in 16 days, but the conversation between Heath and Alonso, 35, was “very brief” on whether the former Seattle Sounders legend will be physically ready to play. The old Cascadia rivalry in play, Heath said.
“Ozzie is defying logic really because of the amount of distance he is covering and the high-speed running; it’s the best since he’s been here,” Heath said. “When you consider his age and the amount of miles on the clock he’s got for what he’s done of the last 10, 12 years, it speaks volume to the way he looks after himself.”
Heath said the Whitecaps will set in a 3-4-3 formation “very much like LAFC did, so all the work we did last week we feel as though it will be the same.” And with that similarity and the hectic schedule, Heath wrapped up Tuesday’s session after roughly 30 minutes in an effort to keep players fresh.
Alonso’s competitive fire hasn’t diminished either. After the draw with LAFC, he was talking to referee Robert Sigiba when he was slightly pushed away by LAFC coach Bob Bradley. Alonso got heated, shouting and pointing at Bradley.
“I tell him don’t push me because you have to respect me because I respect him,” Alonso said Saturday. “So, after, we got in an argument. That’s it.”
The Alonso-Trapp defensive midfield pairing will need to be as resolute with a change coming at left back. Chase Gasper, who ties Trapp with 28 appearances, is suspended for the Vancouver match due to card accumulation.
Heath said Hassani Dotson, Jukka Raitala and D.J. Taylor are the three candidates to fill in for Gasper. Dotson, who is Trapp’s regular partner in midfield and deputized at right back for Romain Metanire on Saturday, is the top candidate to keep showing his versatility.
Raitala played for Finland in a World Cup qualifier Oct. 12, but hasn’t played for Minnesota since Sept. 15, when he stepped in for Taylor. Taylor, who is better suited at right back, had a rough outing at left back against Sporting Kansas City, with winger Johnny Russell creating havoc in Minnesota’s 4-0 loss.
Midfielder Jacori Hayes was elected to a three-year term for the MLS Players Association executive board, the MLSPA said Tuesday. Hayes joins teammate Ethan Finlay on the nine-player board. … Winger Justin McMaster (thigh) remains the only Loons player on the injury list. … Since firing head coach Marc Dos Santos in August, Vancouver has been resurrected under Vanni Sartini, going 6-2-3 to get back into the playoff hunt. After a move from New York Red Bulls, forward Brian White has scored 11 goals in 1,668 minutes.