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 email@example.com.)