It has been an interesting first season in Major League Soccer for Jermaine Taylor.
The Jamaican international popped up on Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear’s radar about this time last year at the Caribbean Cup and since arriving in Houston, Taylor’s fortunes have fluctuated. He’s spent much of the year observing from the bench – 10 starts and 925 minutes played during the regular season – while filling in when needed across the back line.
So it was fitting that his biggest moment of the year came in a relief performance in the Eastern Conference final, a 2-0 victory against Sporting Kansas City on Nov. 6. Come Sunday's MLS Cup final, Taylor could be in line to start.
“He came on against Kansas City and shut Kei [Kamara] down, who was doing alright at the time,” Bobby Boswell said. “He’s got experience, and if he gets the call, he’s a guy who’s going to be ready. He’s waited for his opportunity just like a lot of other guys, and now if he gets it, I’m sure he’ll do great with it.”
For a while, though, opportunities were few and far between. After earning a starting spot out of training camp at center back next to Boswell and starting the season opener, Taylor was injured while away with Jamaica on international duty. By the time he got back to full health, Andre Hainault had taken the spot next to Boswell.
“At the time the team was doing well, and as a player you don’t want to be the guy that goes in and things start going wrong,” Taylor said.
Once healthy, Taylor saw his time on the field ebb and flow and showed off his versatility, stepping in and providing quality minutes at all four back-line positions. In particular, the time he’s played on the flanks has highlighted his speed and attacking ability, as well as a willingness to commit himself on both sides of the ball.
“I have two feet, so why not use both of them?” Taylor said with a chuckle. “I know I can fit in any of the spots around the back, and I just want to do what the coach needs from me.”
When it mattered most, Taylor did exactly what Kinnear asked of him on the left side against Sporting, providing a calming presence defensively and pushing up on set pieces.
“He plays with that relaxed swagger,” Boswell said. “He’s a great player. He’s an international player who’s experienced and is not afraid to impose his opinion and will on anyone. He’s a strong guy and is fast. He’s everything you want in a defender.”
Now Taylor’s number could be called Sunday to duplicate that performance and help counterbalance the loss of Brad Davis. If he gets the nod, he will face a familiar foe in U.S. and MLS star Landon Donovan.
“I’m comfortable at left back, and if I get the chance, I’ve played against Landon Donovan before, and I know he’s a tough, cool opponent,” Taylor said. “But I think I can match him up, and I have confidence in everyone around me to get the job done.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.