Postcard from Europe: After MLS struggles, Taylor at home in Germany
AMSTERDAM – It's been more than four years since Preussen Münster ace Matt Taylor left Chivas USA to try his lot in Germany, plenty of time for lots of change and lots of goals.
The 31-year-old never really caught fire in MLS, notching five goals in 54 games with the Goats and then-Kansas City Wizards. Since crossing the pond, however, Taylor has rung the bell 39 times and added 13 assists in 102 contests for five clubs spread about the second and third divisions. And that doesn't even count his hat trick in Preussen Münster's cup upset of Bundesliga name brand Werder Bremen earlier this term.
Taylor hasn't bounced around Germany so much because of negative reasons; it's because he's been coveted that often. Now standing atop the 3.Bundesliga goal chart for a promotion-chaser, Taylor admits he's enjoying the form of his life.
YouTube: Taylor's hat trick vs. Bremen
"It's up there," he told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Münster, which is a short drive from the Dutch border. "If you add in the cup game, that's 14 goals [so far this season] – it's a pretty good run."
That begs the question of why Taylor fell short back home, but managed to find so much success overseas.
"I've thought about it, too," he offered. "It's hard to explain. There's a lot of people that learn as they go and get better with age. I always try to learn every year and there are parts of my game that have gotten a lot better: reading the game, tactics, the mental side and technical training. They just keep you on the ball [in training]."
He has bloomed where other, more noted MLS attackers have struggled for traction like Edson Buddle, Conor Casey, Clint Mathis and Kenny Cooper. Despite noting the mental aspects of adapting to a new league and culture, Taylor isn't quite sure how he's managed to outlast them in Germany.
"I see it and I talk to guys all the time," he said. "But I don't really have an answer."
Taylor's best advice is for adventurers to aim only for the most welcoming homes away from home. During his stint in Germany, he's been everything from an ink-penned starter to a guy sitting quietly on the periphery of his squad.
"[Finding the right club] is huge," said Taylor, who claims three great situations, one pretty good and one terrible among his five German employers over the years. "You could be signed by a [technical director], but if you're not a favorite of the coach, you're not going to get a look at the field. They're not really going to develop a [veteran] American player. You have to already be at a certain level and then get better.
"If you don't get better fast, you're on your way out the door."
YouTube: Matt Taylor interview (German)
Back in 2004, Kansas City traded up in a mega-swap to take the UCLA product fourth overall in the '04 SuperDraft, one of the best talented drafts in league history to date. Among the other first-rounders that year were Freddy Adu, Clint Dempsey, Clarence Goodson and Chad Marshall. Michael Bradley was a fourth-round choice. Andy Dorman, Alan Gordon and Jeff Parke went in the sixth and final round.
Needless to say, Taylor's MLS stays were situations of the unhappier type. For this, he has an easy explanation.
"I was young and naïve," stated Taylor. "I wouldn't even have considered myself a professional at that point in my career."
He became a better student quickly upon leaving home, notching seven goals and four assists as spot-starter at his first stop, at Koblenz. Two years later, Taylor finished third in the German third division with 17 goals for a very poor Ahlen side.
This season, he's accounted for those 14 goals and five assists in 20 games, and recognizes he has greatly improved since leaving MLS.
"Coming here widened my eyes about the sport," he admitted. "So coming home would be a completely different ballgame for me."
While Taylor occasionally wonders what might have been with an earlier arrival in Germany, his more frequent thought is of one day returning to prove a point to himself back in Major League Soccer.
"I think about it all the time," he said. "I still pay attention and I think it's pretty impressive to see how it's come along. When I'm home, I go watch Chivas USA and the Galaxy."
However, he's not exactly sure when that return may be. After all, you don't try to fix what's already working.
"It makes a lot of sense for me to be over here, for the actual soccer and financially," Taylor said. "So I'll probably stay over as long as it's worth it. I have another year and we may be talking about new contract.
"But I never had a good year [in MLS]. It would be nice to give it another go and see if it would work out."