Two Small Strikers with Injury Problems: Michael Owen and Taylor Twellman

Twellman has a great strike rate in the MLS but his game has not transferred well to the international stage. (Courtesy Jarrett Campbell)

Twellman has a great strike rate in the MLS but his game has not transferred well to the international stage. (Courtesy Jarrett Campbell)

By Kevin Koczwara

I have been thinking about Michael Owen ever since he signed with Manchester United. I just don’t know what it is about that story that keeps me coming for me. Michael Owen bothers me for some reason. He just makes me think about how great some players could have been, or were but no one really noticed. He was under appreciated at one time, and for a while he was overrated, and washed up. He scores goals, yes. But he doesn’t seem to have that winning edge, or that cutthroat play.

And today, while mowing the lawn and thinking about what I would write tonight, it hit me. Michael Owen reminds me of Taylor Twellman for some reason. And hear me out on this.

I am not saying Twellman is the equivalent to Owen, Michael has more talent and has faced stiffer competition throughout his career. But the way their careers have unfolded is what got me thinking.

Taylor Twellman Michael Owen
1980                                                            1979
5 ft 11 in                                                     5 ft 9 in
International Scoring Rate: 0.21    International Scoring Rate: 0.58
Club Scoring Rate: 0.60                      Club Scoring Rate: 0.50

The only glaring difference is in international scoring (strike) rate, where Owen dominates, but his team gets him more chances– no one can argue that England is not superior to the US on the pitch. But this does not change much because they both play a brand of soccer: the represent the scoring striker. They are the player on the pitch who puts the ball in the back of the net, and that is it.

Michael Owen has scored a plethura of goals over his career, but never really made the impact that was expected of him. (Courtesy emphasis)

Michael Owen has scored a plethura of goals over his career, but never really made the impact that was expected of him. (Courtesy emphasis)

If Twellman and Owen are paired with a strong, possession holding striker and good crossing wide players, they can rack up goals.

They are not strong back-tracking strikers like a Carlos Tevez or Wayne Rooney Neither Owen or Twellman is particularly creative on the pitch when they have the ball. Look at a more well-rounded striker like a Robinho or a Lionel Messi. Neither Owen or Twellman is really good at holding possession, even the likes of Luca Toni (who is nothing short of the definitive ball-hogging striker) can hold play and bring down a ball at midfield, allowing for their team to settle and catch-up. But neither has the skill with the ball that a Demetiv Berbatov has. They are like second rate David Villas (because he has more pace), and just know how the put the ball in the back of the net. It is an attribute, but it is there only attribute. If they had a second skillset, great passing or a blistering shot on free kicks, they would be more of attribute to their teams.

But to give the two strikers credit, they put the ball in the back of the net when they are the pitch more often than not. A .50 strike rate is admirable, very admirable for strikers (especially Twellman who plays in the chippy MLS). The closest comparison I can find to the two players is Ruud Van Nistelrooy (.63 strike rate in club play, .516 international strike rate). But for some reason he doesn’t come to mind, he is more powerful than the Owen and Twellman and has stuck around for a longer time. Nistelrooy also had maybe the most impressive goal scoring streak in soccer history while with Manchester United.

And all this for some reason bothers me. Twellman has had his first injury plagued year this year. He is 29 years old and past his prime and never won anything or made the leap from great scorer to superstar. The injury could be the telltale sign that he is very much like Owen. He is a year younger than Owen, and Owen’s injury plagued seasons are supposedly behind him, but he has never fully regained that touch, or the aura that he once had after two injury riddled seasons (2005-06, 2006-07, his first two at Newcastle after the transfer from Real Madrid). Maybe Twellman’s time is up, and it is time for the Revs to move on, much like Newcastle was forced too.

Twellman might have reached the twilight of his career early, and the skill set he does have isn’t up to snuff anymore, because as with all sports, in soccer as you age you need to pick up more than one set of skills if you hope to be around longer than expected. Lets see the bright side to Twellman’s comparison to Owen, maybe a big club with a winning way will take a chance on the hobbled striker and give him new life, and put him in situations to shine.

Lets hope the Revs see the possibilities before they let go of the goal scorer with no replacement in mind.

Kevin Koczwara is the editor and creator of the Soccer Guys. He can be reached at kkoczwar@gmail.com. Check out his other blog on a number of topics: Feel Da Beat

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