It’s the winter between the 1975 and 1976 collegiate seasons and Eastern rivals Hartwick College and Cornell University are scrimmaging indoors to stay in shape for the later fall campaign.
It’s an offseason friendly, but Hartwick midfielder Glenn Myernick isn’t treating it that way. Having just appeared for the U.S. during Olympic qualifying that fall, at 5’10”, with long blonde hair a solid torso and huge legs, “Mooch” strikes an intimidating Thor-like figure as he bosses the small, athletic complex field.
The memory is fuzzy on what happens next. Maybe it was chasing a loose ball, pulling out of a tackle, or maybe he was pushed, but either way suddenly Myernick slams hard into a wrestling mat lining the inner wall of the facility. The impact is hard enough to separate his shoulder. The conventional wisdom says it’s an offseason friendly and Myernick should come out of the game to receive treatment.
It should be no surprise to anyone that met the late Glenn “Mooch” Myernick that he did the exact opposite.
“He gets on up and keeps on playing,” remembered former Cornell midfielder and Myernick’s future coaching colleague Dave Sarachan. “We were shocked that this guy was continuing to play with his arm up against him like Franz Beckenbauer in 1970.”
“That was Mooch. All heart, a competitor and a big personality.”
As a senior, Myernick led Hartwick to the 1976 NCAA Semifinals and won that year’s Hermann Trophy as college soccer’s best player. Soccer was Myernick’s calling and his last season at Hartwick was the beginning of a 40-year career in the game, resulting in this year’s National Soccer Hall of Fame induction.
In the following year’s NASL College Draft, Myernick was selected first overall by the Dallas Tornado, where the converted defender helped the club to playoff appearances twice in three years between 1977-1979. He also had a run with the full U.S. Men’s National Team, earning 10 caps during the years he spent in Dallas.
“As a player, despite his size, and I wouldn’t say he was the fastest, he had had a toughness and he had pretty good feet for a big man,” said Sarachan. “He was really an unusual athlete on the soccer field back then in the 1970s.”
Myernick was a constant in the lineups of the teams he played on – something of a rarity for an American at the time. He would go on to play indoors for the Wichita Wings and captain the Portland Timbers for three seasons before playing out his career in two seasons with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, essentially retiring when the NASL folded.
A league that closed up shop couldn’t take away the dedication Myernick had to the game. Instead of playing, “Mooch” found a second calling, moving directly into an assistant coaching role with the University of Tampa in 1985. After one season, he returned to Hartwick to serve as an assistant under his old coach Jim Lennox.
A student of the game in the truest sense, Myernick left Hartwick in 1989 to serve as an assistant with the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team. It was the beginning of a long list of jobs Myernick would take on for the U.S. Soccer Federation, dedicating the rest of his life to helping American players develop and teaching the ins and outs of the game.
“The X’s and O’s fascinated Mooch, but most of all, he loved teaching,” Sarachan continued. “His greatest joy was getting on the field to demonstrate and show young players the proper way to play the game.
Serving as an assistant coach under Bobby Howe, Myernick saw the U.S. U-20 side advance to the knockout round at the 1993 FIFA World Youth Championships in Australia. Two years later, Myernick was the head coach of the U.S. side that went to the 1995 FIFA U-17 World Championships in Ecuador, working with current U.S. MNT players Tim Howard and Nick Rimando.
After finishing his U-17 duties, Myernick served as an assistant coach under Bruce Arena with the U.S. U-23s as they prepared and played in the 1996 Summer Olympics.
“To this day I haven’t been around a person with the combination of skills Mooch had,” Arena recently told ussoccer.com. “His knowledge of the game, his relationships with people and his ability to coach and teach were unparalleled. He was a remarkable person and I couldn’t have thought of a better person to work with me.”
In 1997, Myernick moved back into the club realm for the first time in more than a decade when he took the reins of the Colorado Rapids, where he made an immediate impression on his new players in preseason.
“I remember he was so fit that when we took off on our first run, he kind of stayed behind us,” said fellow Soccer Hall of Fame member Marcelo Balboa. “We were going out a mile and a half and a mile back. All of a sudden we’re stretching at a mile and a half and he said, ‘We’re going to push it a little bit.’ Next thing you know, Mooch is in front of us, he’s gone, and he beat all of us. He was a little older than us, but he was a guy that was fit and instantly earned respect from us.”
While he had respect, Myernick’s first season in charge of the Rapids wasn’t all roses. Things got better as the 1997 season progressed and Myernick led the Rapids to the MLS Cup that year, where they fell 2-1 to Arena’s D.C. United at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Two years later, the Rapids advanced to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, where they fell 2-0 to the Rochester Rhinos.
Despite not having the most talented roster, Myernick led the Rapids to the MLS Cup playoffs in each of his four seasons in charge. “he did such a great job with the talent he had,” said Balboa. “We didn’t have great, talented players, but we had good players. He was a guy that motivated us, put a tactical plan and wanted you to follow it. He understood the players, especially as the time went on, because he was a former player, knew what we were going through.”
After the 2000 season, he moved on from the club and eventually returned to a role with the U.S. Soccer Federation, reuniting with Arena on the U.S. Men’s National Team staff ahead of the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
Part of the staff that was preparing the Men’s National Team for what would be an incredible run in South Korea, a big personal victory for Myernick three weeks away from the tournament opener, in some small part led to one of the biggest wins in U.S. Soccer history.
An old school type, Myernick had little clue when it came to using a computer, which proved problematic as he was tasked with putting together the team’s scouting notebook for the Portugal match.
“To put a computer in front of him was like putting an abacus in front of him -- he had no idea how to use it,” remembered Sarachan. “He managed to hunt and peck his way through it for months on end. We’re three weeks away and he’s figuring out how to cut and paste, and he worried about it.”
One day between training sessions in Cary, N.C., Sarachan walks by Myernick’s room and says, “Come here and look at my screen.”
“He’s writing notes on Portugal and then he writes, ‘Bruce is a jerk,’” Sarachan continued. “I go, ‘Mooch you can’t keep that!’
“Watch!” Myernick replied before pressing the CTL + Z combination of keys, eliminating the sentence on the screen.
“This is the greatest thing I’ve ever found,” said Myernick. “It fixes everything! I’ve beaten the computer!”
“I was laughing, we were dying and he finished that notebook in no time,” said Sarachan. “It’s a perfect way to sum up Mooch. Nothing was going to beat this guy. If he could find a way to win and get an advantage, he would do it. CTL + Z got us through Portugal -- I think we won that game because of CTL + Z.”
Computer skills aside, the personal touch Myernick brought to the 2002 U.S. team went a long way to the side’s success. Having earned his first Men’s National Team cap a year before, midfielder Pablo Mastroeni proved crucial to that success and gave much credit for it to Myernick’s one-on-one work.
“He spent a lot of his time helping me with video and making it apparent of the different areas I needed to continue to think about as we headed into that World Cup,” said the current Colorado Rapids manager. “Spending a lot of time with me on a personal level was tremendous. As a collective, Mooch was a guy that would always be in and around the play helping guys out with the little nuances of the game. Most importantly, he would demand greatness from everyone, he’d be a guy that you could go talk to, but a great piece of a great coaching staff that helped us achieve all we were aiming to strive for.”
According to U.S. goalkeeper Brad Friedel, Myernick’s ability to manage personalities and relate to players also played an important role in the lead-up to the team’s historic 2-0 Round of 16 victory against Mexico.
“There were some team selection issues that were going on and he came and confronted me about it,” Friedel told ussoccer.com “I said my bit back because I’ve never been one to hold my tongue either. The best thing you can say about Mooch is that, whenever everything is done and dusted, no matter what’s said, because it’s never personal in these situations, it’s a handshake and you get on with it.
“That’s probably his single best attribute as a coach,” Friedel continued. “When you have these relationships with players —we all have egos and there are coaches that are going to have egos – it’s impossible not to have arguments. You will have arguments. The best of the coaches and the best of the players and the most mature of both sides are the ones that can shake hands and have that same relationship prior to that argument after when it’s all done and dusted. That’s the best thing and it’s a big, big attribute to have when you’re in the coaching industry.”
Following the World Cup, Myernick stayed on as an assistant coach to Arena, leading the U.S. U-23 side during qualifying for the 2004 Summer Olympics and filling in as head coach in the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final as Arena served a one-match suspension in the MNT’s penalty kick win against Panama. He returned to the FIFA World Cup in Germany the following year, where narrow results in a tough group saw the U.S. fail to advance to the knockout stage.
Four months after returning from the World Cup, Myernick passed away from a heart attack suffered after jogging near his home in Thornton, Colo. While he’ll enter the National Soccer Hall of Fame posthumously, the honor is still meaningful according to his wife Nancy.
“This means everything to us; his whole world was soccer,” she said “It revolved around the game from the time he was a little kid playing in Trenton, to youth soccer, and then going to college, and being with the National Team. He could never get enough. We built our lives around soccer, and we traveled the country to make it happen for him and to be involved in whatever level he could be. He put 110 percent effort into whatever he did with soccer. We wish he could have received this honor himself, but knowing the family will be there is a huge honor.”
“To this day, I’m close to Mooch’s family – they’re unbelievable people,” added Arena. “He was just a remarkable person and there can’t be a better American coach and a person more worthy of this achievement than Glenn Myernick. We’re proud to have him as part of the Hall of Fame.”
Touching tributes poured in on social media from all corners of the soccer community as news spread that Hall of Fame coach Sigi Schmid had passed away on Christmas Day 2018. And amid the sadness shared by so many who knew him, the messages also provided the rest of us a glimpse into the kind of man that Sigi was, and reminded everyone of the influence Sigi had on the American soccer landscape.
For newer fans of the game, Sigi will be remembered as one of the greatest of MLS coaches, leading the Columbus Crew, Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy to multiple trophies each. Older fans may recall the soccer factory he created while coaching UCLA to numerous NCAA Championships in the 1980 and ‘90s, churning out future U.S. Soccer legends like Cobi Jones, Brad Friedel, Paul Caligiuri, Joe Max-Moore, Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Lewis and Chris Henderson, among others.
It’s also important to highlight the impact he had with two teams he coached for shorter time frames: the U.S. U-20 MNTs that participated in the 1999 and 2005 FIFA U-20 World Youth Championships, each time advancing to the knockout stage while facing the likes of Argentina, England, Germany, Spain and Italy.
Seven players from those U-20 teams would go on to represent the MNT at senior FIFA World Cups, while many others also had solid pro careers. And if not for Schmid, we may never have known some of those players. We caught up with a few from each team:
1999 FIFA U-20 World Cup Championship:
While at UCLA, Sigi also assisted the MNT at 1994 FIFA World Cup and coached the following year’s Pan-American Games. In 1997, he was also coaching the U-18 MNT when he went to scout a player who had just played in the U-17 FIFA World Youth Championship and was playing for his high school in Southern California. However, as Carlos Bocanegra tells it, there was a mistake on the published schedule and the team that Sigi went to see was not playing. Sigi stuck around anyway, and watched the promising football wide receiver, Bocanegra, play soccer for his Alta Loma High School.
“I think about that all the time,” the two-time World Cup veteran Bocanegra told ussoccer.com this week. “That was my break. That was my chance. He gave me the opportunity and I was able to take that opportunity. That’s how I was able to kick-start my soccer career – pure coincidence that he was watching my game that got mixed up and he saw me play.”
Schmid invited Bocanegra, a junior at the time, to a U-18 camp. The next year he continued his pursuit of the talented defender and recruited Bocanegra to join him at UCLA. Their bond strengthened when Schmid took over the U-20 MNT and made Bocanegra a key member of the USA’s 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship side in Nigeria.
That team also included fellow future senior World Cup players Tim Howard, Steve Cherundolo, Nick Rimando and Chris Albright, as well as long-time pros Danny Califf, Nick Garcia, Cory Gibbs, John Thorrington and Taylor Twellman, who became one of the most prolific American goalscorers in the pro ranks.
“That World Cup, playing with Sigi, had a massive impact on me and ultimately convinced me that I needed to go pro,” said Twellman, who at the time was also contemplating if his future would be in baseball, where he also excelled.
At the tournament, the USA defeated an England side that featured Ashley Cole and Peter Crouch, fell to Shinji Ono’s Japan, and defeated Cameroon in group play before falling by a score of 3-2 in the Round of 16 to eventual champions Spain that included Iker Casillas and Xavi.
In the lead up to that tournament, Sigi broke from the past and brought the team overseas for training, including to Morocco for two games and on a two-week fitness camp in Germany, where the team stayed at a bed-and-breakfast.
Bocanegra in action vs. Argentina in 2003, a few short years after graduating from Schmid's tutelage.
“He really tried to give us good experiences that he thought would help us later in our career,” said Bocanegra. “He always tried to set trips up around where we could watch games at a higher level and get experiences to challenge ourselves in different ways than was maybe common practice. He always wanted the best for the group and to give us the best experiences to try to better ourselves, not only on the field but in life and to become well-rounded in the game.”
As a reward for the hard work in Germany, Sigi brought the U20s to France to attend the 1998 World Cup match between the USA and Germany.
“Sigi had such a feel for the game of soccer, domestically and globally,” said Chris Albright. “He always communicated that we were putting on our nations colors and flag, representing the country. He drilled that in us that this was not to take it for granted, that it was not to be taken lightly.”
Like Bocanegra, Sigi introduced Albright to the National Team scene. Later he helped pick him up when things were not going well at D.C., trading for him in LA. At the suggestion of then MNT coach Bruce Arena, Sigi helped convert Albright from a forward into a defender, a move that later landed Chris on the 2006 World Cup team.
“He had an excellent ability to teach multiple positions; he could make me a better forward, wide midfielder, defender,” Albright said. “He could teach principles of different positions to help each player grow, and that teaching element in developing us at that time was unique.”
Twellman scored four goals in the tournament, good for third overall, thus becoming the first American to capture a scoring award (Bronze Boot) in a FIFA World Youth Championship.
Twellman accepts the Bronze Boot alongside then U.S. Soccer president Dr. Robert S. Contiguglia.
“When people talk about Sigi, they talk about his love of the game,” Twellman said, who a few months later would leave Maryland to sign with 1860 Munich in Germany. “But he was also a gentleman and was kind off the field. Every single one of us on that team, if we saw Sigi 3-4-5-10 years down the road…he always watched our games, even when he was not our coach. He was always willing to talk to us, showed interested in us, asked us about our lives.”
Now the Technical Director of MLS Cup champion Atlanta United, Bocanegra draws from those early experiences under Schmid.
“Even though we were young, he really tried to instill the professionalism in us,” Bocanegra said. “The detail, structure, organization – challenging us. He always made time to make people feel important. He never stopped, through college, through pros, was always available. He was pretty special.”
2005 Under-20 World Youth Championship
A week after that 1999 U-20 tournament came to an end for the USA, Sigi also began his pro career, taking the helm of his hometown LA Galaxy for the next five seasons.
He returned to coach the U-20 MNT in October 2014, having only a couple months to scout and prep players for January’s U-20 Concacaf Championship.
Two years earlier, Schmid’s Galaxy had eliminated Kansas City and veteran National Team player Peter Vermes from the MLS Cup Playoffs. After the game, Vermes recalled this week, Schmid approached him and told him he’d like to have him on his staff one day.
Fast-forward to fall 2014, a since-retired Vermes called Sigi and reminded him of that conversation. Schmid held true and invited Vermes to a three-week U-20 camp. After a week of evaluating, Schmid told Vermes he had earned one of the assistant coach positions.
“It was a great opportunity for me just to be around somebody like him with as much knowledge and experience that he had,” Vermes said, who enters the 2019 season as the longest tenured MLS coach, having taken the reigns of Sporting KC in 2009. “I already knew I wanted to coach for a long time, but what those experiences give you is like anything – when you first want to do something, you’re excited, you’re ambitious, you’re motivated, you’re all those things. But sometimes you lack the confidence. For me, Sigi gave me a direction that I felt comfortable with because I had gotten a chance to see a lot of different things that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t get that chance to be with him and spend all that time, and the preparation, and everything. It was a great experience.”
Schmid’s first friendly was in November in Ft. Lauderdale. Due to College Cup, some would-be regulars were not available, so Schmid called in four new players, including UCLA speedster Marvell Wynne, who had never been called to any YNT camp before.
“I think I should have been more in the moment with everything that happened,” Wynne admits. “When I got called in I remember thinking ‘these guys are way better than me.’ But Sigi kept calling me back. When he said I made the team, I was definitely shocked.”
For a mid-December camp Schmid called in 30 players, including UCLA walk-on midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who also had never been on any Youth National Team. Like Wynne, Feilhaber also made a formidable impression.
Wynne and Feilhaber were instrumental in helping the USA qualify for the
2005 FIFA U-20 World Youth Championship three weeks later.
Let’s back up for a second. Sigi’s sons also played college soccer in the LA area around that era. And, family man that he was, he would always attend their games, first Kurt’s at UCLA, and later Kyle’s at UC-Irvine.
“It’s what jump-started my entire career,” said newly retired 12-year pro Brad Evans. “The only reason I made that U-20 team is because Kyle Schmid transferred to UC Irvine. Without Kyle transferring there was absolutely no reason for Sigi to come watch UCI play.”
Schmid had spotted Evans that fall at UCI, but it wasn’t until after the U-20s had qualified for the World Cup that he called in the versatile player to his first National Team camp at any level.
Vermes explained how Sigi gave the preliminary roster to rest of the coaching staff and told them that they could each make a case for one player to either be replaced or be added.
“A lot of guys in that position would never consult the rest of staff,” Vermes said. “I thought that showed a lot of security and confidence on his part, to know what his decisions were but also want to know what his staff’s decisions were, and ultimately to make the best decision. There’s no doubt that that has helped me, and I would say that a lot of the players that were identified are players that are still playing or who had great careers because they were identified correctly.”
Wynne, Feilhaber and Evans were on the final 21-player roster, along with Jonathan Spector, Sacha Kljestan, Lee Nguyen, Freddy Adu, Chad Barret and Eddie Gaven, among others who also had solid pro careers.
The team shocked the world in the tournament opener, defeating Argentina 1-0 thanks to a Barrett goal assisted by Wynne. It would be the only loss and shutout suffered by the South Americans, who won their next six matches en route the lifting the championship trophy with future international stars Sergio Aguero, Lucas Biglia, Pablo Zabaleta, Fernando Gago and Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner, Lionel Messi.
Chad Barrett, who would go on to play professionally under Schmid in MLS, scored the game-winner vs. Argentina at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship.
The 20s then played Germany to a scoreless draw and defeated Egypt 1-0 before losing 3-1 to Italy in the Round of 16. The experience and exposure provided opportunities to a number of players.
Feilhaber would soon sign with Hamburg, and later would score one of the best goals of the USA’s rivalry against Mexico, helping the MNT win the 2007 Gold Cup. And despite interest from international clubs, Wynne and Evans returned to school. Wynne became the top pick in the next MLS SuperDraft and Evans was selected 15th overall the following year by Columbus’s new coach, Sigi Schmid.
“He means more than I can really describe,” Feilhaber said, who along with Spector also made the 2010 FIFA World Cup roster. “Getting that opportunity with the 20s led to everything else in my life. I have no idea if I would have become a pro. I know I would not have been as successful financially, [and] going to Europe that early helped me immensely as a player. I don’t know if I would have ever played on the National Team let alone in a World Cup. I’m really grateful for Sigi having that keen eye and for giving me that opportunity.”
Sigi not only gave Evans his international debut and professional debut but would also bring him to Seattle on their way to spending 10 pro seasons together.
“He was the pivot for me in my entire career,” Evans said. “You have youth coaches, parents, but if you want to talk about the person who I’m able to talk about 12 years later and say I played professionally because of them…yes, it comes from within, but you have to have someone who pushes you and really believed in you, and Sigi was the guy for me.”
Sigi’s memorial took place on Friday, Jan. 18 in Los Angeles.
In March 2017, after more than 300 MLS games and having also represented the USA in the 2008 Olympics and 2009 Confederations Cup, Wynne’s career came to an end after undergoing a heart procedure.
When he came to from the operation, one of the first voicemails he listened to was from Sigi Schmid.
“Sigi was the reason I became a pro,” Wynne said. “He got me on to the scene, kept me there, had confidence in me and he kept me going. In terms of coaching, it was more, ‘get the basics right and perfect them.’ He was the first one to hammer that home, and if you ever saw my career, it was basic.”
A reflective Wynne made a special trip to an LA Galaxy game last year to meet up with his former coach.
“We talked about my heart situation, and caught up about everything,” Wynne said. “And I told him, ‘you’re the reason I went pro.’ I was able to tell him face to face, but I hoped he knew.”
“Yea, the opportunity, experience and all those other things were great, but the best thing for me, to be honest, was that he and I became friends after that 2005 Youth Championship,” Vermes said. “We always, always talked and kept in touch and spent time with each other. We had a very good relationship.”
“I sense that he knew what he meant to me,” Feilhaber said. “The way that we spoke was not in a way that most coaches to ex-players do. We were friends - he understood how much of an influence he had on me. We had respect for each other, and I’m going to miss him a lot, but it’s so important to have these memories about him.”
“We talk about a coaching tree a lot, but Sigi’s got the player tree, the coaching tree, the soccer tree really,” Bocanegra said. “So many people spiraled off the opportunities he gave them. Through soccer he gave so many people their start. But the biggest part that everybody remembers is that he cared about each and every person. He wanted to get the best out of them, and did not give up. He would give second chances, third chances - if you were his guys, and you worked for him he was going to his damndest to get the best out of you and make you a better player or person in general.”
“When I think back on it, especially the last couple of weeks, we always talked about getting the ‘Sigi shirt-tug,’” Evans reminisced. “Once he got a hold of your shirt and put his arm around you, there was no getting away from it. But I remember him being very honest with me in everything. He never blew smoke up my tail or thought that I was better or worse than I was. He always believed in me. We really trusted each other when it came to soccer and had an unspoken relationship that just worked. It’s something that I’ll cherish and remember forever.”Read more