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Mooch Soccer: An inner-city success story
by Mike Woitalla, May 24th, 2012 12:30AM

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TAGS:  youth boys

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By Mike Woitalla

Last year when I went to watch the U.S. national team train at the Home Depot Center, I asked for directions and was told by a security guy in a golf cart that it was taking place at the "Mooch Myernick Field."

The Glenn “Mooch” Myernick Field to be exact. And it made me wish that instead of the field being named in his memory he was a coach on that field. Because Mooch had always been a coach I enjoyed interviewing. Not just because he provided me with useful information for my articles, but he seemed to enjoy talking soccer with me. Whether it was about the emerging talent he coached on youth national teams, when he was Bruce Arena’s World Cup and Olympic assistant coach, or when he was the Colorado Rapids' head coach. Or whether it was simply a chat about the sport in general.

So hearing the name Mooch always stirs the mixed emotions of fond memories and the day in October 2006 when the e-mail arrived in my in-box that he had died of a heart attack at age 51.

I was most recently reminded of Mooch when an eighth-grader from Myernick’s hometown of Trenton, N.J., was selected for the U-14 national team earlier this month.

Matthew Olosunde credits his early rise in the soccer world to Mooch Soccer, the Trenton inner-city soccer program founded by Myernick’s friend Charlie Inverso and New Jersey youth coach Mike Van Wagner.

“The Mooch program helped me because I received great coaching and I always played against older guys who were bigger and stronger,” Olosunde told the The Trentonian. “It wasn’t easy, but this really helped me because I was always big for my age and in the Mooch program I had to figure out how to do things without being able to use my size and speed.

“I wish more kids in Trenton took advantage of the Mooch program and I wish there were programs like Mooch all over the country.”

Inverso is head coach of Rider University after more than two decades at Mercer County Community College and has spent more than a decade coaching U.S. youth national teams.

“One of the reasons we started Mooch Soccer was not just to give urban kids a recreational-type program but to expose them to good coaching and prove that inner-city kids not only want to play soccer but can develop into high-level players,” says Inverso. “Matt is a perfect example that the inner-city model we came up with definitely can work.

“I have been with the national teams for 10-12 years and while we have had many minority players, Matt may be one of the few, if any, who is American-born and developed in an inner-city program. The others had developed their skills growing up in Africa or Latin America. Matt is an inner-city kid who developed his game in Trenton/Mercer area. He is proof that it can happen.”

At age 6, Olosunde's first coach was Mooch Soccer president Wagner. Since age 8, Olosunde always played up at least two years at Mooch Soccer. He played regularly with the Princeton Soccer Association -- under Coach Stoyan Pumpalov -- but always trained with Mooch Soccer and on its indoor and futsal teams.

“We haven't seen him in at least a year,” says Inverso, “and that is a good thing because once a kid outgrows our program -- we only have two travel teams -- we don't try to hold on to him. We want him to go somewhere where he will develop further and be challenged. Matt is now playing with the Red Bulls [youth program] and being coached by Manfred Schellscheidt.

“The great aspect of inner city soccer is that you don't have to do things the way they do it everywhere else. Our goal is to develop players, not win state cups or tournaments.”

But finding coaches for inner-city programs is a challenge.

“There is not as much money to be made,” Inverso says. “But I really believe that once we tap into inner-city talent we will close the gap on the rest of soccer nations who produce better players than us.

“I would tell anyone who loves the game that coaching in the inner city is the best soccer experience they will ever have. Not only does it give you a good feeling, but once you find that special young player that you see potential in -- you will be hooked.”

(For more on information on Mooch Soccer, go HERE or e-mail Charlie Inverso at cinverso@rider.edu.
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5 comments
  1. arthur Mitchell
    commented on: May 24, 2012 at 2:06 p.m.
    I love this article on mooch soccer because there are lots of talent in the inner i coach at an inner city club in allentown,pa. called aysc- allentown youth soccer club and thru our inter-mural program we finds of lot of diamond in the rough, lots of coaches don't know what they missing running off the the suburb. i am having alot of fun, plus our club is non-profit so we don't turn any kids who want to try the game of soccer..

  1. Marc Silverstein
    commented on: May 24, 2012 at 2:13 p.m.
    I've made an email inquiry today to fellow NISOA referee Ken Andres who is on the BOD in order to determine if this group is a 501C3 non-profit approved by the IRS. If so, I plan to donate. Thanks!

  1. K Hakim
    commented on: May 24, 2012 at 2:42 p.m.
    This is a fantastic story but certainly not original. Today there are many inner city success stories and programs (albeit not enough), from the days of the Houstonians, Eddie Pope, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and on the girls side, Winslow Tigers in Southern New Jersey and many more. But the most successful inner city academy and one of the first ever was the Washington Youth Soccer Association (1991-2001) which nurtured 20 boys and girls year round from the inner city of DC (ages 4-10) all into the USYSA ODP system, and all in to NCAA D1 college soccer. Many are coaches are today and one, Alex Ughiovhe, played professional with both DC United and Chicago Fire. They even went on an unprecedented tour to Europe and were the first American team to defeat a full-time English Premier League Academy on British soil when their U18s defeated Chelsea FC U19s 3-1 in 2001. 2 boys were invited back to NEC Nijmegen the following year for a month's trial. There is much more to this story but take a look at the short documentary of the WYSA made in 2001 by Futbol Mundial who followed the Academy on tour: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhkkPOYZdK8

  1. Jeff Lewin
    commented on: May 25, 2012 at 9:42 a.m.
    Great to see Mooch's legacy continue and the great work done by Charlie and Mike. Providing the kids with a venue to learn not only soccer skills but also life skills. Those of us that grew up and played with Mooch can further confirm the fact that he was a coach and inspiration early on.

  1. Richard Broad
    commented on: May 25, 2012 at 12:19 p.m.
    Anything associated with Glenn Myernick should represent the very best in soccer, as he always did. What could be a better endorsement of a program than to have Mooch's name attached to it. Props to both Charlie and Mike for this splendid way of continuing his legacy.


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