Terrence Boyd: Does the red-hot Kaiserslautern striker deserve a USMNT recall?
With Terrence Boyd starting the 2022/23 season in supreme form for Kaiserslautern, bundesliga.com asks whether the 31-year-old striker could be in line for a recall to the USA men's national team.
Boyd last played for the USMNT in October 2016 - a two-minute cameo against New Zealand that took his international cap collection to 14.
At the time, he was with RB Leipzig in the third division and had just recovered from the second of two ACL injuries that reduced him to only eight first-team appearances for the club between joining in 2014 and eventually departing in January 2017.
And it's hard not to reflect on Boyd's career and wonder what might have been had that period of time unfolded differently.
He had burst on the scene by lighting up the German youth leagues with Hertha Berlin, which led to Borussia Dortmund sealing his signature in 2011. He wouldn't make his senior debut with Jürgen Klopp's title-winning BVB in Cyclops' sole season at the club, but 20 goals in 32 appearances for their reserves caught first the eye of Austrian outfit Rapid Vienna and then USA coach, Jürgen Klinsmann.
After making his senior USA debut in 2012, he was named in 10 of Klinsmann's 16 squads during 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying, made three appearances, and even teed up former Werder Bremen man, Aaron Johansson, for a 94th-minute winner in the final fixture - a 3-2 victory over Panama.
Despite his ongoing involvement that helped secure the USA's World Cup spot in Brazil, Boyd was cut from Klinsmann's final squad and didn't board the plane to South America.
"Not making the final roster of the 2014 World Cup broke my heart," he later told Back of the Net, and there was more heartbreak to come that summer.
Having signed for Leipzig in July, Boyd's excitement landing at ambitious RBL was immediately dampened by the first of his ACL injuries that made him miss the start of the season.
He eventually made his debut on Matchday 14 of the 2014/15 campaign against Nuremberg, and Boyd's first goals soon followed - a brace in a 4-1 win over St. Pauli - but just as he gained momentum, it was again cut short by the second of his cruel ACL injuries.
Boyd picked it up 37 minutes into a home fixture against Ingolstadt and you need only look at Leipzig's team that day to see what might have been in an alternate universe where the Bremen-born American soared on the wings of Leipzig; into the top flight and beyond.
Starting alongside Boyd against Ingolstadt were the likes of Diego Demme and Rani Khedira, while he was keeping Yussuf Poulsen and Ante Rebic in reserve.
Whereas all four would go on to become Bundesliga regulars, Boyd missed the entirety of the following campaign through injury, watching on as Leipzig earned promotion to the Bundesliga and by January 2017, he joined Darmstadt.
"RB Leipzig was a tough time for me personally being out with the ACL," said Boyd, whose professional disappointment during that period was at least alleviated by becoming a father for the first time.
He told Goal in May 2020: "I've had a lot of dark moments. The worst was the constant uncertainty. Before the last operation, I was thinking quite specifically about ending my career.
"At the time, my first daughter was on the way, and I didn't know how I was going to support my family after I retired. Those were existential fears. But there's no choice but to keep fighting. All of these experiences made me who I am today."
A first Bundesliga goal in his third outing for Darmstadt stunned former club Dortmund and promised a clearing of the clouds, but relegation followed at the end of the season. After just five goals in 44 games, Boyd was off Major League Soccer with Toronto FC in 2019.
Thirteen goalless outings later, he hit the reset button by joining Hallescher in Germany's third tier. It proved Boyd's remaking.
Watch: Boyd's first Bundesliga goal against old club Dortmund
Pressure-free, the goals came flooding in as the 6'2" battering ram of a striker - who Klopp once asked to not "break anyone" in training - rattled home 40 goals in 89 games for Halle prior to his arrival at Kaiserslautern in January this year.
He said the move gave him "goosebumps" and Lautern fans were soon feeling the tingle from their new signing as Boyd struck eight times in 17 league games and helped the two-time German champions end their four-year exile in the third drop of the pyramid.
Player and club immediately bonded, with Boyd's rock-star performance at the club's promotion party - a cigar in one hand, he poured whiskey for supporters in the other - resulting in the 31-year-old adding fresh ink to his body.
"Moving up is something very special, you don’t get that very often," he said. "I’m going to get a tattoo today... I can’t get too drunk yet because it’s not good for your blood if you’re drunk with it. I’ll post it for sure."
He was good to his word and, sure enough, "Lautre" was added to his arm soon after.
Boyd has continued his resurgence into the new campaign, with two goals and two more assists in his first four league outings of 2022/23.
It's got the club dreaming of a first return to the top flight since their last relegation in 2012 and the more we see that famous cyclops celebration in action this term, the more plausible the dream will become.
Those writing Boyd off do so at their peril and it may be a case of sooner rather than later that we see him back at both the domestic and international summit.
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