It was a picture that first drew me to Terrence Boyd. The tall, long-limbed striker had only played in a handful of matches for the U.S., and his promise was evident, even if the end-product wasn’t there yet. He had been a hot prospect for Borussia Dortmund, scoring goals by the bunches for their second team and even earning a bench spot at Westfalenstadion. At that particular moment, he was trying to climb the European ladder in Austria. But it was a picture, taken on a torn-up field in Panama, which made me a Terrence Boyd fan.
The U.S. had just beaten Panama 3-2, in a meaningless game for the States. We had already qualified for Brazil 2014; Panama had not, and neither had Mexico. But with a team full of reserves looking to impress Jurgen Klinsmann and solidify a spot on the national side, they won in the dying minutes of the game, sending Panama out of contention, and securing a playoff spot for Mexico. The Panamanians were distraught. The stadium was silent. It was one of the strangest victories I’ve ever experienced as a U.S. fan.
And there was Terrence Boyd, dropped to his knees, hugging a grieving Felipe Godoy. It was a simple show of solidarity from a player who had only gotten a couple of minutes. Boyd had not crushed Panama’s dreams (that was Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson). But he kneeled on the pitch, hugging another grown man who had just lost probably his only shot at playing on the biggest stage in the World, as if he felt the same things Godoy felt at that moment.
If only he knew.
I found out about Terrence Boyd the same way many U.S. fans did: news that another German-American dual national was already playing for the States at the youth level. At that point, Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, and Danny Williams had all become contributors for the U.S., but Boyd was different. Boyd played for Borussia Dortmund.
Or, at least, their second team. It might seem silly now that we’ve reached the “A.C.” portion of the USMNT history of time (After Christian Pulisic), but before we had a teenager lighting up the Dortmund faithful on the regular, the news that we even had a prospect at the club felt huge. Dortmund had just toppled Bayern in the Bundesliga and only one more year would go by before they would bulldoze their way to the Champions League final. Jurgen Klopp had established himself as the new star coach in Europe, and the club had a serious reputation for churning out academy products and turning them into stars. When Boyd made the switch from the Hertha Berlin reserves to Dortmund’s second team in the fall of 2011, he promptly scored 20 goals in 32 appearances. There wasn’t much reason not to be excited about Terrence Boyd. He was cap-tied to the United States in June of 2012 with a substitute appearance against Antigua and Barbuda. All was looking very well.
Boyd was not satisfied with his position on Dortmund’s second team, however, and soon left the club to enjoy a starting position in Austria with Rapid Vienna. The move was a step down from the possible ceiling of Bundesliga play, but there were more professional opportunities to be had. Oh, and also goals. Boy, were there goals.
Boyd’s position as Rapid’s goal scoring threat and performances in both Austria and the Europa League earned him more attention from other clubs around Europe, and soon enough he was moving again, back to Germany, with fast-rising RB Leipzig. The club had recently been purchased by Red Bull and was scouring Europe’s lower leagues for young talent as they moved up to the 2. Bundesliga. Everything seemed to be going according to plan, and Boyd had positioned himself to launch back into German soccer with a vengeance.
As Boyd’s passport collected a few more stamps, so did his forearms and torso with a growing collection of tattoos. In the early days of my knowledge of Terrence Boyd, his Instagram account was the one outlet that most reliably updated with weird and funny pictures from his life. Far from a curated Instagram that serves as an extension of a player’s PR department, Boyd’s Instagram was hilariously weird. There were samurai pictures with Eddie Johnson. There were meditations with his pet turtle. And there was always documentation of his growing collection of ink.
The bald eagle and flag wrapped around his elbow and forearm got many U.S. fans’ attention, but it’s his most ridiculous piece of ink that always appealed to me. The giant, reptilian eye on his right forearm was quickly turned into a signature goal celebration: the cyclops. Sure, it was over the top. I loved it. The U.S. had plenty of hard-working and classy players. They didn’t have nearly enough showboats. Terrence Boyd waltzed into the middle of U.S. soccer culture and planted his oddball flag, all freak of nature physique, instinctive finishing skills, and one-of-a-kind personality to boot. If I hadn’t been in Boyd’s corner before, that didn’t last very long.
Of course, the best-laid plans don’t always pan out. Boyd had struggled with some injuries here and there during his career, but a torn ACL and subsequent setbacks soon after his transfer to Leipzig derailed his career there. To make matters worse, Leipzig were promoted during Boyd’s several rehab stints. Suddenly in the Bundesliga, Boyd no longer had a place in a team that found itself sitting in second place. The goal had been achieved; Boyd was just not a part of it.
It’s funny how careers work. After a couple of years firmly out of the international spotlight, and with newer, shinier prospects, Terrence Boyd became a bit of a footnote for the USMNT. His inclusion in camp and appearance against New Zealand in the fall was a nice cameo, but with so little game time, what was the point? How did Boyd expect to turn things around when the door kept getting slammed in his face, especially now that he was healthy and in the Bundesliga, but unable to make it onto the field?
It’s funny how a career works. In 2011, Terrence Boyd made a Dortmund bench. In 2017, after what seemed like a lifetime, he scored on them.
As a career fan of the Buffalo Bills, I’m well-accustomed to falling in love with disappointments. Glory is not a prerequisite for my love. I prefer the weird ones, the loud ones, the ones who have to struggle to eke out success. To see Terrence Boyd wheel away from the Dortmund box, forearm planted across his face and tongue hanging out of his mouth, was pure joy (don’t tell Fear the Wall I said that). Boyd is back to scoring goals, even if it’s for the cellar dweller of the Bundesliga, SV Darmstadt. And at only 25, whose to say there aren’t more to come? He’s been to injury hell and back, but he’s not dead.
And so is Terrence Boyd.