There is a certain aura, romance, about the one-club man. To stick with a single team throughout one's career requires a consistent level of excellence that is enough to fend off the competition, both inside the team and out. All the while, a feeling of challenge has to be there.
External factors play a part as well. The club has to appreciate what you offer throughout a sustained period. The same goes for the usual parade of managers that one might encounter. There also has to be general agreement on the player's relative value that gives both sides the feeling they're gaining something in return.
There was a time when it looked like Wil Trapp might be one of those guys with the Columbus Crew. This is a man who is quintessentially Ohio, having been born in Columbus and raised in nearby Gahanna. He played collegiately at the University of Akron, emerged from the Crew's academy to sign a Homegrown Player deal, and went on to become a fixture in Columbus' midfield. He could embrace his family before every home game.
But throughout the past few years, there has been a growing restlessness in Trapp. He acquired a Greek passport, the better to ease a possible path to a European club. A sense of mental fatigue took over as well, especially after the Crew were saved from relocation when the Haslam and Edwards families purchased the team from Anthony Precourt.
There was also an increasing sense that Trapp no longer fit into the plans of Crew manager Caleb Porter. When asked whether he still felt like one of Porter's guys, Trapp said, "I think any time that the coach names you the captain, you feel like you're one of those guys."
True, but other actions spoke as well. The acquisition of Darlington Nagbe, a player whose skill set has considerable overlap with Trapp's, further raised the question of just how much of a future the Crew captain had with his hometown club. It had gotten to the point where if Trapp was to grow, he had to leave.
Yet when the deal to ship Trapp to Inter Miami finally went down, the reality of his departure hit home. He eventually took out a full-page ad in the Columbus Post-Dispatch to convey his thanks to the fans, the club and his family. Prior to that, the goodbyes felt sudden and awash with emotion.
"[Leaving the Crew] was difficult, I can't undersell that point," Trapp told ESPN via telephone last week from Inter Miami's training base in Sarasota, Florida. "I had about five minutes in Cancun with the boys to just say goodbye and it was a very emotional time. These are people that I had built great relationships with, had been through ups and downs with. To say goodbye, it didn't almost feel real because to step into something different after that was new to me, of course. But at the same time, I think it was necessary."
Trapp hasn't been traded to just another MLS team, he's been thrown into the league's ultimate Petri dish, that of an expansion side that is trying to find its way in a league that now sports 26 teams. Granted, it's a well-financed Petri dish, and the recent success of Atlanta United and LAFC in their inaugural seasons has put aside the notion that expansion teams can't win right away. But with two weeks to go until the start of the campaign, there are a lot of unknowns surrounding Miami. The imminent signing of Mexico international Rodolfo Pizarro would be a huge boost, but the loss of Designated Player Julian Carranza to a foot injury will sideline him for upward of 12 weeks. The weight of responsibility on Trapp, as well as veterans Luis Robles and A.J. DeLaGarza, just got a bit heavier.
The South Florida vibe figures to be demonstrably different, for sure, but Trapp isn't looking at that as a negative. In fact, it's provided precisely the energy boost he was hoping to feel when he agreed to make the move south. He's being pushed in all manner of ways.
"There's Spanish spoken here and then translated, so you're learning new things every single day," he said. "I think as a player you want to be growing and feel like that. That freshness and newness to continue to grow."
It helps that Trapp has found something of a kindred spirit in Miami manager Diego Alonso. Both men have something to prove. The U.S. midfielder is keen to show he can excel outside of his Ohio bubble, while Alonso is eager to move past his disappointing spell at Liga MX side Monterrey. There's also a stylistic fit in that Alonso values possession with quick combinations.
"You feel like you're connecting back to what you love again a little bit," said Trapp about the early training sessions under Alonso. "His energy and passion for the game is contagious. He has this just glowing ability to bring people together that love to play football, that love to combine and make passes and press and have intensity. It's infectious."
At 27, Trapp knows his skill set is basically who he is as a player. He's not going to turn into a midfield destroyer who delivers crunching tackles. He feels that to do so would be not only a waste of time, but dampen the skills that he does possess.
"If you're always trying to chase the white rabbit of some new skill acquisition, you end up not focusing on the things that you're actually good at," he said. "It's about just understanding what those qualities are, and then sharpening them to be as good as possible in those strengths."
Trapp hasn't given up on his European dream just yet. His contract is up at the end of the year, the Greek passport still in his back pocket, but he also sounds like a player willing to give Miami a go and see where it leads.
His focus is on establishing chemistry with his new teammates -- a critical piece for an expansion team -- with off-field activities meaning almost as much as those on. A sterling rendition of the Blackstreet's "No Diggity" did plenty to endear Trapp to his teammates. The team even organized an outing to watch the Super Bowl at a nearby bowling alley, the better to get guys out of their hotel rooms and spend time with each other.
"You have guys joking, guys laughing and enjoying their time together not only as teammates, but just as people," he said. "I thought that was special, those types of moments are really important."
Trapp's bonds with his former home will never really be broken, and it's not as if Ohio is on the other side of the world. But now he's is eager to create some new ties that bind.