By Mike Woitalla
As Terrence Boyd stops to speak with reporters on the first day of the USA's pre-World Cup training camp at Stanford University, he quickly makes an impression on various levels.
He’s tall, polite, musclebound, good-humored -- and speaks excellent English for a 23-year-old who has lived his entire life in Germany.
“I learned English in school and listened to a lot of hip-hop,” Boyd says with the smile that accompanies his nearly every statement.
How does he score so many goals?
“I’m a tank!” he says.
The reporter next to me asks him to repeat. “You mean a tank? A tank?”
“Yes, a tank. You want to play against me?” Boyd says as he leans forward with a delightful laugh.
It’s not quite an accurate description for Boyd, whose agility, leaping ability and knack to quickly be in the right spot for a shot is how he scored 20 goals for Rapid Vienna in the Austrian and Europa League play this past season. He was the leading scoring on Borussia Dortmund’s reserve team before he moved to Austria.
He’s still a long shot to make it on the World Cup 23-man squad for the USA, for which he’s scoreless in 13 appearances. But he’s part of the 30-man roster, was the second-highest American scorer in 2013-14 club ball next to Aron Johannsson, and has plenty of time in Jurgen Klinsmann’s long camp to make a case.
“I was very happy to get the call,” Boyd says. “I’m honored, but I’m not celebrating. I have to prove myself.”
He is one of six German products in camp -- players whose fathers were U.S. servicemen married to German wives. When discovered by then U-20 coach Thomas Rongen, Boyd had to verify his U.S. citizenship.
“I looked up relatives on Facebook,” Boyd says.
He found a cousin and made contact with his aunt, who provided the paperwork for the passport he needed to play for the USA. He had no interest in connecting with his father.
“Now he’s reaching out to me,” Boyd says. “But he had his chance a long time ago. He divorced my mother when I was 1 and made her a single mother.”
Boyd grew up in Bremen. His first soccer memories are playing in the streets with friends. He played with small clubs until at age 17 joined Hertha Berlin.
“I think that because I didn’t join a pro club until so late is why I made it,” he says. “A lot of the kids thought because they were with a Bundesliga youth club they’d just move on up to the pros. I had a different attitude. I worked so hard to get to Berlin I think I knew I’d have to keep working hard to get to the next level.”
He moved to Borussia Dortmund when it was Germany’s top club along with Bayern Munich and stock-full of veteran strikers.
The move to Rapid Vienna and becoming the league’s third leading scorer put him in contention to go to a World Cup.
While he doesn’t know yet if his soccer skills will take him to Brazil, they’ve already brought him to Berlin and Vienna, two of Europe’s most popular destinations.
“I like Vienna a lot,” Boyd says. “And my mom sure does. I think the reason she visits me so much isn’t just because she wants to watch me play soccer.”
And then comes the big smile before he jogs onto the field.