"In my opinion, Taylor is the best American goal scorer this league has ever produced."
So said Landon Donovan, currently the highest scoring player in U.S. history.
Taylor Twellman, a member of Sasho Cirovski's Maryland Terrapins soccer team in 1998-1999, and the MLS MVP and top scorer in 2005, announced his retirement from professional soccer today due to concussions.
From his giant forehead to his skin-tight shirts to his goofy smile, Twellman was my favorite non-United soccer player. Mostly because he was a Terp, but also because he had an uncanny ability to get open within the penalty area. If a New England Revolution player was sending in a cross, Twellman was always the leading candidate to receive it. He finishes his career with 101 total goals, and was the fastest player ever to reach the century mark. He did it in only 174 matches.
He also scored one of the greatest goals in MLS history. A bicycle kick goal in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals to send the Revolution through to the MLS Cup Final.
In his press conference announcement today, Twellman told a story about his mother convincing the general manager of his German club 1860 Munich to allow him to come home and play in MLS. And that's where he stayed. Despite being the most productive scorer MLS had ever seen, Twellman remained at home. Which isn't without controversy. English Championship club Preston North End made a bid to buy Twellman from MLS, but Bob Kraft and the Revolution organization rejected it. It was just a few months later that Twellman suffered a major concussion.
The NFL is just starting to come around on the seriousness of concussions. Major League Soccer has been on that train for a few years now. Twellman might be the most successful, but he's certainly not the first soccer player to retire due to concussions. Some hit close to home: Josh Gros, Alecko Eskandarian, Bryan Namoff.
Twellman has a future in broadcasting. He's already done color commentary on a few matches on ESPN. But you can't help but wonder what could have been if he was able to stay healthy.
Would he actually have had the numbers to back up Donovan's claim that Twellman is the best American scorer ever in MLS? We'll never know.