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.”