MATHEW WAGNER - Wednesday, December 19, 2012
In the land that created the word wanderlust, Matt Taylor has become the consummate soccer journeyman.
Since moving to Germany in 2008, the American forward has bounced around between the 2. Bundesliga and 3.Liga, playing now for his fifth different team in five seasons. Nevertheless, those years have been nothing less than successful.
With the exception of the 2009-10 season at FSV Frankfurt, Taylor has thrived, scoring 39 goals in 103 matches. He's also added 13 assists over that time.
His statistics in the German third division are mind-boggling; in 49 league matches, Taylor has scored 28 goals.
"If you look at my numbers, I think in the second division, third division or wherever I've played here, I've been able to score some goals," Taylor said. "When I play up front or in the middle of the field, I've been able to be effective."
But things weren't always this way. Taylor began his professional career in Major League Soccer, where in three-and-a-half seasons, injuries hampered the Southern California native, as he went on to score five goals in 54 matches for then-Kansas City Wizards and Chivas USA. One of the more serious injuries was a broken ankle that needed multiple surgeries to fix.
He also dealt with a bevy of coaching changes. He had six coaches during his time in MLS, mostly at Chivas USA, and eventually left the Goats in June 2007.
After a brief stint with the Portland Timbers, Taylor fell out of professional soccer for a short time, opting to play for Hollywood United. During that short spell, he met actor Anthony LaPaglia, who set up a tryout with his team Sydney FC. That started a two-and-a-half month spell travelling and playing soccer throughout Australia.
While on the trail in Australia, Taylor met Paul Agostino, an Australian international player who spent a decade at 1860 Munich, and he told Taylor that he was too good of a soccer player to be playing in Australia. A couple of weeks after the meeting, Agostino called Taylor to let him know that Taylor had a tryout in Germany, and he was off to another adventure.
"Australia was nothing but a positive experience for me," Taylor said. "It was my first time really out of the States. It was the first time where I didn't have a job or wasn't attached to a team in my whole career. It gave me good time to look at my career and what direction it was going to take."
Not many people could see the trajectory that Taylor's career path would take, especially with the success he has had so far this season.
In August, Taylor moved from second division team Paderborn to third division team Münster, and the move has paid dividends for both the player and the team.
It started with an incredible performance in the DFB Pokal, Germany's cup tournament. In the team's first round matchup against Bundesliga team Werder Bremen, Taylor recorded a hat-trick and assisted on another goal, as the Eagles pulled off the 4-2 upset in overtime.
Twice in regulation, Taylor pulled Münster back into the match, before assisting on the game-winning goal and putting the match away in the 118th minute.
His performance left such an impression on the city that the Allwetterzoo Münster named a baby camel that was born on the same day as the cup match after him.
"For me personally, it was a highlight," Taylor said. "I've had two or three matches out here in Germany in my time that have been absolute highlights that I'll always be able to look back on. You become a fan favorite. It's something the fans will never forget. It's a way to win your way into the fans' hearts."
Taylor and the Eagles have ridden the momentum of that win, with Taylor tallying 11 goals in 19 league matches and was leading the league before his three-match suspension started on December 1.
Meanwhile, Münster sits in third place in the third division with 43 points going into the winter break. This is a new position for the Eagles, a franchise that hasn't seen much success in recent years. As recently as the 2007-08 season, Münster played in the Oberliga Westfalen, or fifth tier of German soccer. That level is the highest level of amateur status in Germany.
It was a far cry from the Eagles' decorated past. Münster was a founding member of the Bundesliga, participating in the league's inaugural season in 1963-64.
It turned out to be the team's only appearance in the Bundesliga.
These days, however, Taylor said that one can see the excitement among the people of Münster, and the players are feeding off it.
"There's a lot of football blood in the city," Taylor said. "You've got a lot of older fans that are there, and they have a really pessimistic view on the club just because of all the failure. With this year, you see in the city and just talking to people that they haven't felt this in a long time. They come up and tell you personally how fun it is to watch and to come back to the stadium now."
Now, the team is fighting for promotion, and for Taylor, this isn't a new experience. Last season at Paderborn, the team fought for promotion and missed out by one point. He said that experience has given him a leadership role in the locker room.
"You deal with that pressure on a weekly basis," Taylor said. "When you're playing for promotion, three points is the goal. That becomes tough because you're playing against teams where you're expected to win, and the pressure mounts.
"I've learned. But, for the guys on my team, this situation is new for a bunch of them. Maybe I do have kind of a leadership role on the team. I have something to say, and people listen."
As for Taylor, he said he still wants to come back to MLS someday, but for now, he's comfortable in Germany.
"All I know is right now, I'm in a very good place with soccer and with my club and with my family," Taylor said. "We're having a good time, and I have a few years left on my contract. As long as I can play in Münster with this club and we go in the right direction-like we've already started-I will play as long as I can here."