Columbus Crew SC welcomed its fourth unbeaten team to MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday night, and again the Black & Gold emerged unbeaten. At the same time, Columbus' 2-1 win over the previously undefeated Toronto FC cemented milestones for Crew SC Captain and Homegrown midfielder Wil Trapp (his 100th MLS regular-season appearance), rookie Niko Hansen (first MLS regular-season start and 1st career assist) and Ohio-native Josh Williams (first appearance at MAPFRE Stadium since re-signing with Crew SC).
Trapp — Crew SC's fourth-ever Homegrown Signing — reached the century mark by appearing as Captain in the first match of the 2017 Trillium Cup. He steadied and steered the connections between the Black & Gold backline and attack with 67 successful passes, three clearances, two interceptions and a victorious tackle. The 24-year-old Gahanna-native was most successful from his deep-lying position, delivering six long-distance passes in the match.
"I think it’s a great hundredth game," Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said. "Wil had an excellent performance, I thought. His tenacity to make plays, to make it difficult on the opponent was certainly there and then on the ball, nice and controlled. It was a special hundredth game. Again, Toronto is a good opponent, it was a very difficult game and it’s good to get the win."
The ninth overall selection in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, Niko Hansen broke into the Crew SC starting XI — electrifying the right wing for the first hour of the match. The 22-year-old created Crew SC's equalizing goal — a smooth Ola Kamara tap-in from the edge of the goalmouth. He pierced into Toronto's 18-yard box from the right side, drawing goalkeeper Alex Bono, defender Nick Hagglund and defensive midfielder Michael Bradley toward him before sliding his first career assist to a wide-open Kamara. The first-year professional completed 15 passes in his first MLS start — five of which came in the final third.
"That’s exactly what it was — special," Berhalter said. "It was a classic case of a guy who forces his way into the lineup by performing in games when he gets the opportunity and performing in training. We saw enough to say it was his time. Niko got his number called and stepped up and played really well."
Williams re-entered MAPFRE Stadium to close out Crew SC's victory in the 88th minute. The Copley, Ohio, native entered against his former team (Toronto FC - 2016), taking the field at MAPFRE Stadium as a member of Crew SC for the first time since Oct. 26, 2014. The 6-foot-2 central defender previously played in Columbus from 2010-14 before stops with NYCFC in 2015 and Toronto FC last season. He re-signed with Columbus in January. In his 120-seconds of play on Saturday, he intercepted a pass, earned a foul and successfully connected on two of his three passes.
"It’s step by step, it’s a work in progress," Berhalter said about his backline's ability to close out matches. "You know, I think we could have been even sharper, but it’s still the belief is there. And that’s the important thing because it’s not always going to be perfect. We mentioned that in other games. The mindset and the mentality is certainly there and that’s a lot to build from."
Columbus Crew SC next visits the New York Red Bulls on April 22 for a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff. The Black & Gold return to MAPFRE Stadium on April 29 for a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff against Andrea Pirlo, David Villa and New York City FC.