The bright lights of Europe twinkled irresistibly when Traffic Sports snapped up talented United States youth internationals Tony Taylor and Gale Agbossoumonde on third-party deals in 2009. Follow GOAL.COM on Twitter
Indeed, the Brazilian sports marketing company did deliver the pair to Europe, though with varied results.
Almost four years later, powerful defender Agbossoumonde is finally getting his career back on track - not with a club in Europe, but with Toronto FC in MLS. Taylor had more success, finding playing time in Portugal's top two divisions, before the versatile forward moved to Cypriot club Omonia Nicosia in June on a free transfer.
But having regularly felt held back at former club and Traffic-owned outfit Estoril, Taylor was content to move on when his contract with the agency expired at the end of the 2012-13 season. The move to Omonia, which made an offer to better that of city rival APOEL, completes the fresh start.
"It feels great. It feels like I've started over," Taylor told Goal. "I feel I'm still fairly young, I work hard, I feel great. So I'm just ready to give everything I've got here."
Already, the 24-year-old has had his chances. Taylor started both matches for Omonia in the second round of qualifying for the Europa League, although the continental adventure ended abruptly with a 3-2 aggregate loss to Romanian side Astra Giurgiu. He featured off the bench in the season opener against rival Anorthisis, saying he felt "very comfortable" with the 20-time Cypriot Championship winner. Taylor acknowledges it might have something to do with the club's fans.
Omonia was on the brink in February when its debts spiraled out of control, but was saved by a fundraising campaign titled 'Omonia is its people' and supported to the hilt by the club's fanbase. It did not take long for Taylor to understand the truth in that motto.
"I felt it pretty much right when I got here. A whole bunch of [the fans] wrote me on Facebook saying welcome," he said. "It's something I haven’t really felt before, being at Estoril and then coming here. I did to an extent, just not like this much. They really make you feel special.
"… I always tell people here that, as a team, the least we can do is give everything we've got for the fans, because they've given so much to the club."
Taylor's words are another indication that life with Traffic was not always ideal. The California-born speedster joined then second-tier outfit Estoril soon after the 2009 Under-20 World Cup, spending time on-loan with Atletico Clube de Portugal before returning to help his parent club gain promotion to the Primeira Liga. But he made just two league starts in 15 appearances during the 2012-13 season, and was left frustrated by Estoril's refusal to let him join Pacos de Ferreira in January.
"They didn’t want to send me to first division for another team to be stronger. But for me it didn’t make sense - I wasn’t even playing for Estoril," he said.
It was to be the final nail in his decision to leave Estoril, for which Taylor seldom felt wanted. After all, it was Traffic - not the coaching staff - which had brought Taylor to Estoril.
"It had its ups and downs. I had some good times with Estoril. When I went on-loan to Atletico, that was great for me. I got in games… but then, when I would come back to Estoril, I would feel like I wasn’t part of their plans," he said.
"I was like, 'Oh if we're losing the game and we need someone [to bring on]'… I was never a guy they counted on right from the beginning. I felt like they knew I was a great player, but they had their guys already, so if they didn’t have to use me, they wouldn't."
Taylor stops well short of the type of comments Agbossoumonde made to ESPN in November 2010, speaking pointedly of his regret in signing for Traffic after bouncing between Portugal, Sweden and Germany with little success. The agency has dealings with more than 60 players, some of whom play in the world's biggest leagues. It seemed where Traffic said to go, however, Agbossoumonde found only road blocks.
Taylor found more joy - and importantly, stability - in Portugal. He is, as a result, rather more circumspect.
"I try to look at every situation positively, because back then I made the best decision with the options I had," he said.
"So now, the positive I've learned from that is that it made me really stronger, and it made me appreciate - when I am given the chance - to make the most of it, to not take it for granted."
He is pleased for Agbossoumonde, who trained with him for a time at Estoril and was a teammate for the United States at the youth level.
"I'm happy for him," Taylor said. "I saw he signed for Toronto. Good for him - he's a good player and nice guy, so I hope for the best for him."
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