On Sept. 1, 2001, Taylor Twellman sat in the stands in Munich's
Olympic Stadium and cheered--not too loudly--as one of his idols,
Michael Owen, scored three goals for England, which thrashed
Germany 5-1 in a World Cup qualifier. Such are the perks of being
a pro soccer player, even one who never plays, in the German
capital. "I saw some unbelievable games," says Twellman, an
American who warmed the bench for 1860 Munich. "I saw Bayern
Munich play Manchester United in the Champions League four times.
I was in that stadium for all the big events."
Ducats aside, life in the Bundesliga was less than rosy for
Twellman, who is now 22. Three days after that England-Germany
game, 1860 Munich offered him a two-year contract extension,
which he was contemplating. Seven days later, when he showed up
for training, his teammates were gathered around the radio.
Twellman understood enough German to figure out what had
happened. "After September 11, I thought, Do I really want to
stay here, or do I want to go home and let my family see me
play?" he says. "The reaction in Germany toward 9/11 was
indifference. My decision was made for me."
It's tempting to write off Twellman's Teutonic tour as a wasted
year and a half. German teams routinely stockpile young talent
and aren't afraid to let those players rot on the sidelines,
which is what happened to Twellman. But he still thinks his time
was well spent. "I'm happy I did it," he says. "I was humbled. I
learned how to take criticism. And I learned how to be a pro."
It's hard to argue with the results. After being selected second
by the New England Revolution in the MLS superdraft last
February, he had a league-leading 14 goals through Sunday, which
earned him a starting spot in MLS's All-Star Game.
Twellman initially attracted the attention of 1860 Munich at the
1999 under-20 world championships, winning the bronze boot as the
tournament's third-leading scorer. In January 2000, after his
sophomore season at Maryland, the St. Louis native signed with
1860 and led the team's reserves in scoring. He figured his
performance gave him a chance to make the first 11. Instead he
was told that he might fit into the club's plans by the time he
was 24. That got him thinking about his future.
Twellman's decision to return to the U.S. was welcomed by his
family. His dad, Tim, played in the NASL for seven years, and his
maternal grandfather, Jim Delsing, was a major league outfielder
for 10 years. He was best known, however, as the pinch runner for
Eddie Gaedel, the midget who drew a walk for the St. Louis Browns
in 1951. Taylor is doing his best to make sure that he's
remembered for something more substantial. But his prodigious
goal-scoring hasn't impressed everybody. A few weeks ago D.C.
United coach Ray Hudson said he didn't "have too high a regard
for [Twellman]," and considered him nothing more than a
"As a forward, that's what you're supposed to do," says New
England midfielder Steve Ralston, who had assisted on eight of
Twellman's goals. "He works his ass off, and he's brave. He'll
stick his head where most guys won't. He doesn't care as long as
he gets a touch on it." Hudson's comments aside, it's obvious
that Twellman's all-around game is strong. Two weeks ago in a 4-2
loss to Kansas City, Twellman set up one of the prettiest goals
of the year with a nifty backheel through traffic to Alex Pineda
Chacon, who booted it home.
Before last Saturday's 4-3 loss to the MetroStars, in which he
had a goal and an assist, Twellman sat in the lobby of the team's
hotel talking about playing in the U.S. "Every player will tell
you, when you're playing, you're happy." Less than 40 feet away
one of the wall clocks behind the front desk showed the time of
day in Munich. The city was six hours ahead. But Twellman
couldn't be happier to have left it behind.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID BERGMAN SEEING IS BELIEVING New England's potent Twellman has proved his detractors wrong.
MLS Leading Scorers
PLAYER, TEAM GAMES GOALS ASSISTS POINTS
1. Taylor Twellman, Revolution 18 14 3 31
2. Carlos Ruiz, Galaxy 17 14 0 28
3. Jason Kreis, Burn 18 12 2 26
4. Ariel Graziani, Earthquakes 19 11 4 26
5. Mamadou Diallo, MetroStars 14 10 3 23
*Stats through Sunday