During a March 2015 practice, Crew SC midfielder Wil Trapp slid in an attempt to block a teammate's shot, taking an inadvertent knee to the head.

During a March 2015 practice, Crew SC midfielder Wil Trapp slid in an attempt to block a teammate's shot, taking an inadvertent knee to the head.

It was a seemingly innocuous play - the kind the Columbus native has made hundreds of times since he started playing soccer as a child growing up in Gahanna - but the resulting concussion and the ensuing three-month recovery briefly led Trapp to wonder if he'd be forced to walk away from the game he loved just as his career was starting to take off.

"You never want to think that when you're three years into your career and you're 22 years old, but there were a lot of real thoughts and questions that came into my mind, like, 'Do I start taking more online classes to finish school?'" said Trapp, now 23, seated at a table in a small second-story office within Mapfre Stadium for an early February interview. "You come to games and you sit in the stands and people are looking at you like, 'You look fine. When are you getting back out there?' And that question is just the worst. There's no one that wants to play more than I wanted to play. As a professional soccer player that's your job; that's all you want to do. And to be sidelined for something that's not really well understood made it even more difficult.

"You look at a lot of guys who had to retire early - Taylor [Twellman] being one of many who had extremely successful careers cut short [due to concussion-related injuries]. So those thoughts do go through your mind, and I struggled with it. Ultimately, though, I trusted the staff and the doctors I was working with, and I realized if I didn't take the time and do this right now, I might have to look into other opportunities in the future."

This was a particularly jarring revelation for Trapp coming off a successful stretch where he made his debut playing for the U.S. national team during a January 2015 friendly with Chile - momentum that carried into his early season play with the Crew SC.

"Then to have that happen after the second game hurt," said Trapp, who would eventually return to the team and play a key role in the Crew SC reaching the MLS Cup final, where it succumbed to the Portland Timbers 2-1 in front of a raucous hometown crowd at Mapfre Stadium.

"Who knows how many times you'll have a chance to win a championship at home? It doesn't come around often, so to have that opportunity and not take hold of it was tough," he said, reflecting on the loss. "But at the end you have to look at it like, 'Did we deserve to win the game?' And in my opinion I don't think we did enough to deserve to win."

Initially, Trapp didn't realize the extent of his injuries. The midfielder retained consciousness on the play (things momentarily went black and he described his vision as "hazy" in the immediate aftermath of the collision), and at first he was more concerned with an injury to his calf, which had been stepped on as events unfolded.

After taking a couple days off to rest the leg injury, Trapp attempted a return to the practice field, quickly coming to a realization something else was wrong. "I felt completely off," he said. "I couldn't pick my head up to look in front of me as I was running. I was just looking down."

Following a consult with head athletic trainer Craig Devine and head coach Gregg Berhalter, Trapp entered into the concussion protocol, returning two weeks later for an April 8 away match against Vancouver after receiving clearance from multiple doctors. In the first half, the detached sensation returned - "It feels as though you're not fully present; that's the best way I can describe it," Trapp said - and after sitting out the second half the midfielder sought out Rhode Island-based concussion specialist Dr. Victor Pedro at the behest of Twellman, who had been watching the game at home on TV and could sense something was off based on Trapp's play.

Working with Dr. Pedro, and later with Dr. Steven Curtis, a local optometrist with Riverview Eye Associates, Trapp embarked on a cutting-edge therapy regimen aimed at rehabilitating the parts of the brain affected by the injury.

The rehabilitation was designed to break down the neurological pathways injured by the concussion, rewiring them to make them more efficient, in addition to realigning the auditory, vestibular and visual senses, Trapp said.

In practical terms, this meant Trapp spent an hour a day for 12 straight days lying on a moving bed in a dark room while staring up at a light box that emitted a different color with each session - all while wearing headphones that played broken, disjointed music.

"The bed would move either horizontally or in a vertical motion like this," Trapp said, making a rotating motion with his hand. "That's the vestibular system being worked. Then you put on headphones and the music that played was choppy, which tested your brain to fill in the gaps. So you have the vestibular and the auditory systems being worked. Then, lastly, you're staring up at a light box [projecting] different shades and colors of light that inspire different emotions and work different pathways in your brain. And that's the visual side."

The therapy continued at home for another 18 days, in twice-daily 20-minute sessions with a portable light box - "You start out with ruby red and then there's a blue-green and so on; the red is the most intense, and that's really working that autonomic nervous system," Trapp said - after which the midfielder was able to resume normal activity.

At the end of June, following an intensive period of conditioning, Trapp returned to the field for the final 15 minutes of a game against Orlando. "That was great to get back out there and complete a couple passes and just feel at home again," he said.

And despite some initial hesitation battling for headers - "Fresh off an injury it's natural to be that way," he said - Trapp has continued to embrace the same style of play that has gotten him to this point, which is good news for Crew SC fans and bad news for the Portland Timbers, which will help kick off a new MLS season with a Cup rematch at Portland's Providence Park on Sunday, March 6.

"If anything, [the championship rematch] adds a little incentive for the game." Trapp said, stopping short of calling the season-opener a shot at redemption. "It's going to be a rocking atmosphere. I'm certain we'll be up for it, and I'm sure they will as well."