w/ Former MNT Defender John Stollmeyer
What ever happened to what’s-her-face? Did you hear about so-and-so? Dare we ask, where are they now? And more importantly, WHAT are they doing now? Inquiring minds want to know. So we give you “That’s What You’ve Been Doin,?’” a piece that will reacquaint you with a former National Team player or coach, from their exploits on the field for the USA to their current line of work or play. Are they coaching? Are they playing the stock market? Read on and find out.
John Stollmeyer looked around him and happily took it all in. It was the summer of 1990 and in front of him was the Leaning Tower of Pisa. His family was gathered around him drinking cappuccinos and espressos at a small Italian café and enveloping all of them was the passion of the 1990 World Cup.
Stollmeyer was one of the 22 players who traveled to Italy for the 1990 FIFA World Cup, the USA’s first World Cup in 40 years. Between 1986 and 1990, Stollmeyer appeared in 31 games for the U.S. Men’s National Team, including games in the World Cup and the ’88 Olympics.
At 42, Stollmeyer is retired from the professional ranks, but still keeps in shape, playing in a men’s indoor league in Indiana. Despite being retired, he still has soccer injuries, as he and his friends have yet to move into the Over-40 league, and instead play against college players and semiprofessionals in the Men’s Open League.
“We still don’t lose,” said Stollmeyer, laughing. He still loves to play the game, despite recently having a second surgery on his right ankle, which has nagged him since his professional days. “We haven’t moved over (into the Over-40 league) yet. It would be too easy. We look like a bunch of old bums at times, except we all know what we’re doing.”
Stollmeyer is also the Vice President of Investments at Smith Barney—a financial firm that provides brokerage, investment banking and money management services. But Stollmeyer’s most important job is that of “Dad.” He and his wife, Jill, have five children who range between ages 8 and 18, four of whom they adopted from Russia after having a child and deciding that they wanted more children.
Fortunately, Stollmeyer’s job allows him to be flexible enough to participate actively in his children’s lives, which works out well with his wife, who is an anesthesiologist. As with any doctor, she has to be on call and sometimes works longer hours than he does. He is the one who makes sure everyone makes it to school on time and get to all of the doctor’s appointments during the day. He also is no stranger to making dinner and fixing snacks for five hungry kids.
“We balance a lot of things,” said Stollmeyer. “What’s nice is that the kids can look at me to do things and help with things like laundry or if they want food. They’re not afraid to come and say, ‘Hey dad, we need this, that or the other.’ I’m involved with them more.”
That involvement includes coaching his youngest daughter Cassidy’s rec league team and his son Jake’s Under-12 travel team. He also catches as much soccer as he can on television and is following the U.S. Men’s National Team’s World Cup qualifying campaign, keeping an eye on the program that he helped marshal into a new era. Remembering what it was like to be there.
“Having been through that multiple times and understanding the pressure and what goes on in those games, I do love watching those games still,” said Stollmeyer. “And when we’re playing well it’s a lot of fun to watch.
“I really enjoy watching them play. The difference between when I played with the national team and how the national team plays now is that they seem to have more encouragement to attack and go. Players like Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley and those guys, they can attack as well. We had players like Tab Ramos that could, also, but it just seemed a little different back then.”
As a professional, Stollmeyer toiled away in the ranks of the Major Indoor Soccer League as a member of the Cleveland Force before a short stint with the Arizona Condors of the American Professional Soccer League. It was too late for the NASL and there was no MLS in sight. At one point, he even considered a jump across the pond to play in Europe, receiving offers from Glasgow Rangers and a few other clubs, but decided against the move when realizing he could make the same amount of money playing in the U.S.
“It wasn’t like it is now where you could make a real living by going to Europe,” Stollmeyer said. “If you come out of college now, there’s a future in the game and you can play for five or 10 years as long as that league continues to hang in there. If you’re good enough, you can go overseas for a couple of years, make some good money, come back and still have something here.
“Back when I came out, they weren’t looking at the American players as guys that could do the job. Overall, from a life standpoint I thought I should just stay here. As much as I love playing, I didn’t think that going abroad would be the best thing to do.”
But staying in the U.S. didn’t mean that Stollmeyer didn’t get a chance to see the world. As a member of the national team, beside travelling to Seoul, Korea, for the Olympics in 1988 and to Italy for the 1990 World Cup, Stollmeyer participated in the 1980 World Youth Championship in Australia and traveled to 24 different countries with the National Team. According to Stollmeyer, who has played in every World Championship except the World Indoor Games, it’s the World Cup experience that counts the most because it is the defining moment in a player’s career.
In fact, he remembers the café in Pisa as vividly as he remembers playing host Italy in a 1-0 loss after a 5-1 beating by Czechoslovakia in their first game. The smoke and flare from the stands is still clearly visible in Stollmeyer’s memory, as are the cheers from the Italian crowd when the U.S. left the field.
“When I was on the field and we were pressing, the crowd had actually changed who they were rooting for,” Stollmeyer said. “Not that they wanted Italy to truly lose, but they were so upset that they were only beating us by one goal and not trouncing us like Czechoslovakia. They cheered for us as we went off. We weren’t being booed. That experience, to be able to walk away from the World Cup like that, was kind of cool.
“The World Cup is what, I say, any one of us would have, and still would, trade our careers for and do it again, even knowing we would get beat. It was the one thing that you went after in your career. If you had the ability to make it that far and play in a World Cup, that was the peak and nobody could take that away from you.”