CINCINNATI — Saturday’s friendly against Venezuela at Cincinnati Nippert Stadium will be a homecoming of sorts for U.S. national team head coach Gregg Berhalter and midfielder Wil Trapp.
Neither has ties to the Queen City, of course. But each does have deep roots in the city just two hours north on Interstate-71 — Trapp as the hometown captain of the Columbus Crew, and Berhalter as the club’s much-loved former coach. And for each, the match against Venezuela marks their first time representing the national team in Ohio.
For Trapp, 27, all 15 of his caps with the senior squad have come away from the Buckeye State. When the team last visited Ohio, a 3-0 win over Nicaragua during the 2017 Gold Cup in Cleveland, Trapp wasn’t a part of the tournament roster.
“I think it’s a great opportunity not only for myself but for the whole team,” said Trapp when asked about the return to Ohio at Saturday’s training session. “I mean, it’s the last game before the Gold Cup starts and we have a wonderful opportunity to play in a packed stadium in front of fans that are eager to see us. Whether you’re from Ohio or not, it’s a great opportunity.”
As for what the Columbus-native would be focusing on instead?
“I’m just really focusing on how can I help my teammates. How can I get on the field and play a role in ultimately lifting the trophy?”
As for Berhalter, this will be his first time managing a team in Ohio after leaving the Crew and being appointed as the national team coach in December. Though as it turns out, he has also represented the Red, White, and Blue once before in Ohio. As a player, Berhalter played the full 90 minutes in a 0-0 draw with Costa Rica in 2000 at Columbus’ Mapfre Stadium during qualification for the World Cup in Korea and Japan.
And much like Trapp, Berhalter’s mind was less focused on a return to Ohio and more on the team’s goals. Though he also had high praise for the national team’s host city.
“When you talk about destinations in Ohio for soccer, the atmosphere that’s being created in Cincinnati is first class,” Berhalter shared on Saturday. “But we’re here to continue to progress this group,” said Berhalter on Saturday. “It will see more of a representative of what could be a potential [first team] lineup. We know we’re still missing some players, and that’s fine. But you know, the whole idea of these two games was to build a team.”
But while this match will be a national team first for Trapp and Berhalter, both do have experience at Nippert Stadium. However, each will be eager to best the result of their previous visit. Trapp was on the field and Berhalter on the touchline for 0-1 Columbus Crew loss to a then USL-based FC Cincinnati in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2017.
And with the U.S. losing their only other Gold Cup tune-up match 0-1 to Jamaica on Thursday, the desire for both to get a win on Sunday in Cincinnati will be that much higher.