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Jan 9, 2008

Twellman ponders move to Preston North End

The postman might ring twice, but European clubs do not always come knocking more than once in a player's career.

Until recently, Taylor Twellman had given up on receiving another chance overseas. But since the transfer window reopened last week, Twellman has become the subject of a transfer bid from Preston North End, which is desperate to escape the cellar of the Coca Cola Championship.

And Twellman seems eager to make the move. Preston's initial offer of slightly less than $1.7 million was rejected by the MLS, but the club was expected to increase the bid to $2 million. Though Twellman's salary is among the top 10 in the MLS (not counting designated players), he could at least double his salary at Preston, plus earn a percentage of the transfer.

Not to mention getting that second chance.

Twellman was 20 years old when he went to TSV 1860 Munich. Things did not work out, Twellman became demoralized and returned to the MLS in 2002. Though Twellman has been the league's most prolific goal scorer since then, he did not break into the national team, and the lack of caps prevented British clubs from coming after him. Scandinavia was interested but those clubs could not come up with the MLS' price for Twellman.

So, Twellman became resigned to his fate, until coach Bob Bradley started calling him back to the national team.

Twellman, who turns 28 next month, is currently attending the U.S. camp in Carson, Calif. But his fate is being determined by MLS headquarters, agent Dan Segal and Preston North End.

The New England Revolution and the league are obviously not anxious to lose Twellman. The Revolution are still trying to replace Clint Dempsey, Andy Dorman and Daniel Hernandez, who have all moved outside the league. The league's stated policy is to develop stars but not to export them. However, MLS is not in a financial position to refuse healthy payments for its assets, so it is a matter of finding the right price for Twellman.

And determining the transfer fee is not always a simple matter, as Dempsey found out after the World Cup. To say Dempsey became disenchanted with the MLS is an understatement, and he departed feeling bitter and also having had to experience a difficult split with his agent.

The Dempsey and Twellman situations are very different.

Dempsey was desperate to move and, if he had stayed another season with the Revolution, would have left on a free transfer. Though Dempsey's situation should have been handled better by all parties, it's difficult to dispute that it was profitable, Fulham paying a MLS-record transfer fee of $4 million for Dempsey.

Hopefully, Twellman's negotiations with Preston will not be as rocky as Dempsey's were with Premiership clubs ante-Fulham. Twellman has had six productive seasons with the Revolution. He was excellent in the playoffs last year and he was both among the most disappointed and most gracious of Revolution players after losing a fourth MLS Cup. But it might be time for Twellman to make the move.

There is supply and demand at work here. Preston needs to avoid relegation and Twellman might be able to supply the necessary goals. The MLS and the Revolution need Twellman, also. But the league should not deny Twellman an opportunity, especially when it stands to take in a couple million.

Of course, the MLS should not sell Twellman short. The league would have done just that had it allowed Dempsey to go for the initial Premiership offers, which were about $1.5 million.

Keeping Twellman happy has been tricky. He never felt justly compensated until last year, but the peace of mind Twellman attained from that contract might have helped make him more composed. Adding composure to his scoring instincts and ability to strike the ball made Twellman a more complete player.

Twellman has proven himself in MLS and now needs to validate his ability in Europe. Or, the league could dissuade Twellman by upping his pay, as it did with Kansas City's Eddie Johnson, who has incredible potential but has not come close to matching Twellman's production nor been able to lift his team as Twellman has. How the MLS deals with the Twellman offer will help define the league's status as both an exporter and an employer

Frank Dell'Apa is a soccer columnist for The Boston Globe and ESPN.