Eric Wynalda has been boosting Taylor Twellman since first seeing him perform as an opponent in Charleston, S.C., three years ago. Wynalda predicted then that Twellman would break his goal-scoring record with the US national team, and though Twellman has yet to convert in an international game, Wynalda is maintaining his faith.
''He needs to be given the opportunity," Wynalda said after serving as a television commentator for the Revolution's 2-2 tie with the MetroStars Saturday night. ''It's all about a couple of things -- being good and a little lucky, and just being there."
Twellman took over the Major League Soccer scoring lead with his fifth and sixth goals, including the tying score, a powerful header off the underside of the crossbar from a Khano Smith cross in the 89th minute. Twellman, 25, now has 57 goals in 90 MLS regular-season and playoff games, an impressive scoring rate of .633. But Twellman has not been called to the US national team for Saturday's game against England in Chicago and instead will suit up for the Revolution (6-0-2) against Colorado.
''For the Revolution, that was Khano Smith, but for me that cross could have been Eddie Lewis with the national team," said Wynalda, who scored 34 times for the US. ''[Twellman] needs to be put in a situation like that, where [Lewis] and Steve Ralston are giving him balls like that. He needs to be on the field with the first-teamers."
Smith's cross from the left side was exceptionally well-placed, the ball flying more than 50 yards, curving toward the far side of the goal area, where Twellman timed his leap perfectly and left goalkeeper Zach Wells with no chance of making a play.
Twellman relies more on power and strength than Wynalda, who was a polished and technical player, but both have displayed exceptional concentration and purpose near the goal. Twellman strikes the ball solidly with his feet and is fearless and sometimes reckless in scoring opportunities, which puts tremendous pressure on defenders but also has contributed to injury.
Twellman appears to have fully recovered from a nightmarish 2003 season, in which he had walking pneumonia, two concussions, several broken facial bones, and a broken foot.
Twellman's commitment was underscored by the fact that he continued to perform for the US with pneumonia and even scored a goal for the Revolution despite the broken foot in a 4-1 victory over Dallas. By last season, Twellman had not fully recovered from those injuries, then added a hamstring pull, and he scored 11 times in 26 regular-season and playoff matches.
Though US coach Bruce Arena recalled Twellman to the national team this year, it mostly has been for exhibitions. Twellman does not appear to be in the plans for World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica in Salt Lake City (June 4) or Panama (June 8). Twellman could be part of the July 6-24 Gold Cup campaign, which means he could miss as many as four Revolution matches.
''I am not worried about it," Twellman said of his status with the US. ''All I am worried about are my coaches here, Steve Nicol and Paul Mariner. I am just glad I am healthy and playing for the Revs.
''You look at the US and there are a lot of strikers -- Eddie Johnson, Brian McBride, Conor Casey, Landon Donovan, Brian Ching. I just have to wait. I have put a lot into it. Being injured humbled me and made me take a step back, taught me to take better care of my body. Looking back, that was a good thing, but it has been a hard struggle for the last year and a half."
The Revolution's eight-match streak without a defeat broke the team record of seven regular-season games (6-0-1) to conclude the 2003 season . . . The best records in MLS history after eight games -- Los Angeles (1996, '98) 8-0, and Kansas City (2000) 6-0-2.