The Man Who Would Be King
Even before he became a scoring king in the Major Arena Soccer League, Franck Tayou already had some royal blood running through his veins.
Prior to Tayou journeying to the United States, his father, Tayou Taphom, was a king of a small village in Cameroon.
"A lot of people think I call myself king," Tayou said. "That's not the truth. My dad is a king back in Cameroon, obviously, King Tayou."
So, Tayou decided to use the Twitter handle, @KingTayou as "an homage to my dad."
"It wasn't me saying that that I am best in the league or the king of the league," he said. "It wasn't really that. The blogs and the fans started running with it. I guess my performance over the years sort of backed up the nickname. I just go with it."
Of course, given Tayou's accomplishments, it would be difficult to claim that he isn't some sort of arena soccer royalty. He has earned MASL MVP honors three times, won the scoring title four consecutive occasions entering this season and has reached the league final thrice.
Tayou has gotten off to a pretty damn good start this season with 12 goals in four matches. The forward is coming of an astounding weekend in which he connected for five goals in back-to-back Ontario Fury wins last weekend.
Before we delve into that amazing feat, a little background about the 29-year-old striker who has tormented defenders and goalkeepers the past several seasons.
Taphom inherited the crown from his father.
"Nobody knows until the king dies," Tayou said about the king's successor. "That's how it is. They say that in the tradition, when the successor of the king is born, he fills it and he just goes and gives his name to one of his confidantes and when the king dies, that confidant comes out and says, 'This one is king.' It is quite interesting stuff."
So, whether Franck Tayou or his older brother Uzi, a 30-year-old Fury defender, will become an actual king someday, it remains to be seen.
"When you have that title, you are quite popular," Tayou said. "He got into politics and I guess he got involved with the wrong political party and he had to flee the country and he came first as a refugee."
Taphom was granted asylum around 2000-01 and brought his family over several years later as they settled in Las Vegas. The Tayou brothers attended Valley High School.
They made a name for themselves as league all-stars at Tacoma Community College in their freshman year before transferring to Garden City (Kan.) Community College for their sophomore seasons. They moved onto West Virginia University as the Mountaineers reached the NCAA Division I playoffs in both their seasons.
Franck Tayou tested the indoor soccer waters with the Tacoma Stars and then the Las Vegas Legends in the Professional Arena Soccer League, playing for head coach Greg Howes both times.
"My first year in Tacoma, I was 19 [in 2008] and obviously my soccer IQ obviously wasn't at its best, so I wasn't really sure what I was doing," he said.
With his attention on college soccer, Tayou didn't play indoor soccer again until 2012, although he dabbled with futsal.
"My first year with the Legends, I don't think I was really focused on indoor soccer," he said. "My second year I came into my own as a player. My fourth year I established myself with the Sonora Soles.”
In 2016-17, the 6-1, 200-lb. Tayou tallied 57 goals in 20 games. He followed that up with a ridiculous 71 in 22 contests before adding 50 scores in 24 matches with the Monterrey Flash.
"There are not as many target players as me that are fast, good on the ball and can shoot with both feet," he said. "I've worked extremely hard to make myself unpredictable. I can play with my back to the goal. I can face it and go 1 v 1 with any defender. I can go either left or right. It is very difficult to say this is how we're going to stop him. Now, I am more dangerous adding players and teammates into the game if I get doubled. Every time I am getting better. I don't think I'm 100 percent. That's OK with me. It gives me something to work on."
Since many MASL strikers play and improve into their mid and late 30s, that can be a scary thought to many an opponent.
After playing four years in Mexico, Tayou decided it was time for a new challenge. As a free agent, he sought out other teams. He admitted Ontario wasn't his first choice but changed his mind after Uzi signed with the club.
"When I spoke to the management and where they wanted to take the club it made sense," he said. "It sort felt like the right fit for me. When you have someone that can score goals and someone that can stop goals then you're in good shape. It has been working out for us for a long time and we hope we can keep moving forward that way."
After starting the season with only two goals in as many losses to the San Diego Sockers (4-2 defeat) and Tacoma (8-5 setback), head coach Jimmy Nordberg had a talk with Tayou.
"Franck is the most dominant player in this league," he said. "We had a good conversation after the first weekend, and I didn’t think he was doing enough to help the team to be as successful as possible as far as scoring goals and winning games. He took some ownership to that. We addressed some issues with our attack on where to get the ball to him and when he gets the ball around the goal. He's pretty deadly."
They were on the same page.
"We were still trying to figure it out," said Tayou, who watched game videos and "studied on what these defenders are trying to do against me and figure out ways to counter that."
"I just spent a little more time on the field after practice at the bubble than I usually do," he added, "but I knew exactly what I had to work on. I went into the game with a good mentality. I knew that a lot of my teammates look up to me when it comes to these types of games, these types of situations. I knew that if I could get them going, then everyone was going to be more comfortable and more confident."
Tayou came out on fire against Tacoma in the return match at home, winning 10-7 as he scored five goals by 11:39 of the third period -- Uzi set up the final two - on Friday, Dec. 20.
In a home game against the Turlock Cal Express two days later, Tayou added another five in an 8-3 triumph (Uzi assisted the fifth score).
Tayou said he had recorded five goals in a match before, but never in consecutive games on the same weekend.
"Monterrey, I scored five on a Friday and then I scored four on Sunday," he said. "It was always nine or seven [on a weekend]."
So, even for a scoring machine like Tayou last weekend was a pretty incredible accomplishment.
"Yes, absolutely," he said.
Added Nordberg: "I think what's most impressive about his game is that he has all the nuances of the indoor game. He understands on special awareness on how to get other people open. So not only is his scoring goals but he's assisting goals. So that makes us even more dangerous to involve other players. That is key. He knows that if he can draw players away and open up others, that's just as effective as him getting into a 1-on-1 battle where he can go to goal. ... Then we become a three-, four-, five-prong attack."
It will be interesting to see if Tayou can make it three consecutive five-goal games against Sonora on Saturday night.
Beyond the goals, Franck and Uzi Tayou have brought a new mentality to the team, Nordberg said, calling the brothers "huge culture changers."
"I've been a huge fan of both of the Tayou brothers since I've been coaching the Fury," the third-year coach said. "Our goal here in Ontario is to win a championship. so, to be able to win that, we have to change the culture of our club. They've changed the culture in the short time they've been here as far as training, off field, on field mentality of the players. So, it's been great for us.
"Not only for the veterans that have been here to buy into that end, but the young guys we've brought into the lineup, like an Edson [Cardona] or a Joseph Cairel or Jesus Pacheco. Now they see a different level where they can develop as players and be stars for us in the upcoming years."
They’re just hoping to follow the king’s example.