DAVID SMITH - Tuesday, October 28, 2008
One third of the way through his initial season in Germany's second division, former UCLA player and Hermann Trophy finalist Matt Taylor has successfully made the jump overseas and is enjoying a resurgence with his new club TuS Koblenz.
Following a flourishing college career in UCLA that included the 2002 national championship and being a finalist for the 2003 Hermann Trophy, Taylor entered Major League Soccer as the fourth overall draft pick of the Kansas City Wizards.
Throughout his four-year stint in MLS with the Wizards and CD Chivas, he showed flashes of great promise however frequent struggles against injury prevented him from sustaining a regular starting spot with either team.
Taylor left Chivas in 2007 amidst a contract dispute to join the Portland Timbers in America's second-tier USL-1 for the remainder of the season, however found himself at the start of 2008 without a professional contract and pondering his overseas opportunities.
"My main focus at the time was trying to get an opportunity to play in Europe," Taylor tells YA. "But the timing didn't work out to where I could go to Europe because of the transfer window."
An invitation from actor and soccer-enthusiast Anthony LaPaglia to train and play with the amateur Los Angeles-based team Hollywood United strangely provided him with his chance to make the jump overseas - however to a different continent than he'd thought.
"Anthony LaPaglia owns Hollywood United and part of Sydney in the A-League," Taylor informed. "He said to play with them for a couple games in Hollywood, and then the Australian season was starting a couple weeks after. For me it was good to get some games and get some fitness while trying to set something up in Australia."
After a pair of trials with Sydney FC and Adelaide United didn't generate any contract offers, another opportunity fortuitously presented itself through United player Paul Agostino, longtime veteran of both the Australian national team and 1860 Munich.
"Paul Agostino was there. I got to play with him and a bunch of trainees in intersquad scrimmages and I think he took a liking to me. As I was leaving he said he had contacts in Germany, having played there for 10 years."
Taylor packed his bags and headed to Germany, where he quickly found trials with second Bundesliga teams FSV Frankfurt and TuS Koblenz. With Frankfurt undergoing the pains of a newly promoted team, he quickly found a good situation in Koblenz.
"Just from day one here in Koblenz I had a very good feeling. The locker room just seemed like a good atmosphere, a good environment. The coaching staff and players were really welcoming. It just seemed like a good place and a good fit."
Despite, signing with the team only three days before the start of season, he earned a place as a starter for their opening game of the season. Seizing the opportunity to show this was no mistake, Taylor rose to the occasion and scored in a 62 minute debut.
"For my first experience playing in Germany it was everything I could have asked for," the beaming Bruin recalled.
Taylor has since become a regular starter for Koblenz, starting in five of their first eight league games, notching up four goals and an assist in the process to be a central fixture in their attack. His roundabout journey to Koblenz and lack of a preseason did however begin to take its toll.
"Without having the proper preparation and having to play games on top of the hard training, I think it took its wear on me," he admitted. "The trainer recognized that and said to take four or five days off."
The short break from the starting lineup worked like a charm.
"After that time I just started feeling better and working my way back into the team," the new Koblenz fan-favorite said. "For about two weeks I'd done very well in training and started to get fitness and sharpness and everything started coming back."
"It just worked out for the Kaiserslautern game that everything came together for me."
Upon his return to the starting eleven in Koblenz's recent 5-0 dismantling of then-first place FC Kaiserslautern, Taylor played a part in all five goals, scoring a hat trick, providing an assist and drawing the penalty.
Despite his success so far, the competition in Germany's second tier has certainly not left Taylor feeling as though the level of play is lacking compared to his days in MLS.
"Every player on the field in the starting 11 is very sound technically in terms of holding the ball, keeping the ball, tactically knowing what to do and where to position themselves."
"You have guys that have played Champions League," Taylor noted. "Some have been capped with their national teams, played in qualifiers and important games for their national teams."
Even with the considerably booming start to his career abroad, the American is still concentrating on taking full advantage of the opportunities of which he's been the beneficiary of over the last few months, both to help his new team and his own continued development.
"I'm trying to better myself as a player and at the same time to get on the field and help my team win."
With his own personal career path taking him to unexpected corners of the world, Matt has let it define his personal outlook for what his future as a player holds.
"I've been around the game enough to know that usually your plans, when you look toward the future, really don't end up that way, and the only thing you can do is make yourself as good as possible and prepare yourself for the future."