In many ways, Taylor Twellman's 2005 season wasn't much different from almost every other one since he began knocking around a soccer ball while growing up in an athletically gifted family in St. Louis.
The goals came in substantial numbers again this year -- 17 for the New England Revolution to swell his MLS total to 64 and solidify his reputation as one of American soccer's most dangerous forwards.
But what made Twellman's season distinctive was his sense of drama and his maturing contributions to a club favored to win its first MLS championship Sunday against the Los Angeles Galaxy at Pizza Hut Park.
The former Maryland Terrapin was named the league's most valuable player last week, just the third U.S.-born star to win the award in MLS's 10-year history. That trophy joins three other lofty accomplishments this year: MVP of the All-Star Game, the Golden Boot award for leading the league in scoring and his first U.S. national team goal.
"I wasn't smiling very much because I'm more concerned with Sunday," he said upon receiving the league MVP award. "There will be more time to celebrate later."
Twellman and Galaxy star Landon Donovan will be the focal points of Sunday's MLS Cup, the second championship meeting between these clubs in the last four seasons. While Donovan can wreck an opponent's plans with both his inventiveness and his scoring touch, Twellman is an outright finisher who uses incisive positioning and a powerful shot -- both with his feet and his head -- to find the target.
And then there is his perseverance -- six goals scored in the 89th minute or later this season, including a game-winner in injury time against D.C. United in late August.
"He's really blessed with an ability in the box," Revolution Coach Steve Nicol said. "It's something all guys who score goals have inside them. There are certain guys who just love to score goals, and he's one of them."
Twellman's deeds have added to his family's athletic lore. His father, Tim, played in the North American Soccer League; an uncle, Jay Delsing, is on the PGA Tour; and his grandfather, Jim Delsing, spent 10 seasons as an outfielder with five different major league teams.
Taylor Twellman had 28 goals and 17 assists in two seasons at Maryland, helping the Terrapins advance to the 1998 NCAA final four in his freshman year.
"The first year was the best," he recalled. "We had four or five freshmen starting and we went all the way to the semifinals. It was awesome. After my second year, I just felt the time was right to leave."
In addition to his college success, Twellman had performed well for the U.S. under-20 national team at the 1999 world championship in Nigeria, which attracted interest from overseas. He signed with the German club 1860 Munich, but after two seasons stuck on the reserve squad, he landed with MLS.
"In the end, it probably helped him because it gave him a global view of soccer and hardened him as a player," said Terrapins Coach Sasho Cirovski, who keeps in touch with Twellman.
In his first year with the Revolution, Twellman was second in the league with 23 goals. The following two seasons, despite injuries ranging from broken facial bones to a broken foot, he contributed a combined 24 goals. This year, he complemented his striking total with a career-best seven assists and edged United's Jaime Moreno for the scoring title.
Said Nicol, "His desire to score a goal . . . he's a lucky man because he's been born with it."
MLS Notes: Twellman, Moreno and United playmaker Christian Gomez were named to the Best XI, MLS's all-league team. They were joined by goalkeeper Pat Onstad (San Jose); defenders Chris Albright (Los Angeles), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City) and Danny Califf (San Jose); and midfielders Clint Dempsey (New England), Shalrie Joseph (New England), Dwayne De Rosario (San Jose) and Ronnie O'Brien (Dallas). . . . United's front office won several leaguewide awards, including Doug Hicks (public relations), Catherine Marquette (community relations) and Jamie O'Connor (marketing).