FOXBOROUGH - Tunnel vision and focused thinking are fundamental traits of goal scorers such as Taylor Twellman.
But Twellman had a chance to expand his vision yesterday as he lined up next to fellow striker Pat Noonan in central defense during a 25-minute Revolution scrimmage.
Coach Steve Nicol devised a lighthearted workout, with players wearing jerseys of their favorite players and switching positions, the team practicing outside Gillette Stadium for the last time before traveling to Washington, D.C., for Sunday's MLS Cup game against Houston.
"We won't be doing it again soon," Nicol said. "We'll get our serious head back on and get ready for Sunday."
Asked if he was concerned about Twellman being injured in the session, Nicol replied, "He has as much chance of being kicked by a center back as he does by another forward."
Twellman's mood usually reflects his recent goal-scoring exploits. And he is certainly in good spirits, having scored 23 goals in all competitions this season, including both Revolution playoff goals as they have eliminated New York and Chicago.
Since returning to the United States from Germany in 2002, Twellman has generally been the personification of optimism. Twellman's time in Germany, with TSV 1860 Munich, was a humbling experience, and his return to MLS was further humiliating as he signed for the league minimum salary.
But Twellman turned out to be one of the league's best bargains, and early this year, he was finally rewarded with a contract worth the league maximum, nearly $400,000 annually with incentives.
Twellman's bicycle-kick score in a 1-0 win over Chicago Thursday was his 100th goal in 176 MLS playoff and regular-season matches. And the pure joy Twellman displayed in celebrating - a long run to the Revolution bench to embrace Nicol - was an excellent advertisement for the game, maybe even better than the spectacular goal.
"I played attacking midfield growing up," Twellman said. "When I went to 1860, they put me at right back for the first six months. That was a culture shock for me. Then one of their forwards got hurt and I went back to playing forward."
There were few positives in Twellman's Bundesliga experience, aside from a lucrative contract. Twellman's German heritage didn't help much, though he was able to easily learn the language.
Twellman might have understood the Germans, but they did not understand him. They used the best US-born goal scorer in modern history as a defender, and then, shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, the gulf in comprehension widened as Twellman decided to wear a black armband when he played.
Twellman was initially supported by one teammate, but he soon became isolated. At that point, Twellman knew he would be returning home, even though German clubs would soon follow his lead in commemorating the terrorist attacks.
Twellman knew he made the right move as former Revolution coach Fernando Clavijo selected him in the MLS draft, and when the team went to training camp in Aguas de Lindoia, a small resort town in Brazil's Sao Paulo state, he was reunited with Steve Ralston, another St. Louisian.
In training yesterday, Twellman donned the shirt of Ralston's former club, Scott Gallagher, the rival of Twellman's Busch club.
"We talk about it all the time," Twellman said. "That first camp in Brazil, we were roommates, and we've been roommates ever since. Jay Heaps and Joe Franchino were there, too. It's been a fun run, but we've got to win one or we may not be talking to each other anymore."
Twellman credits Ralston's play on the right wing with helping him score as many goals as he has. Ralston moved into central midfield last month, but again provided the final pass for Twellman to convert the deciding goal against the Red Bulls. And Wells Thompson, Ralston's replacement on the right wing, sent in the cross that Twellman biked past two Chicago defenders and goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
"You can put Stevie Ralston at right back or center back and he is going to be a great player, most likely better than anyone else you could put there," Twellman said. "After six years of having him on the right, of course I miss him there. But it's hard to question what Stevie Nicol has done. As long as [Ralston] is on the field, I don't care where he is playing."
Twellman said the Revolution have learned not to become overly exuberant after scoring goals. Twellman's celebration after scoring against Chicago suggests otherwise, though he did tone down the run slightly, compared with his similar run in last year's MLS Cup.
But Twellman is far from losing the spontaneous enthusiasm that follows a goal.
"It's only Tuesday, and [Nicol] is doing a great job of letting the players be kids for a couple days," Twellman said. "When we get to D.C., we'll be serious."
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.