Jack McGlynn: USA's U-20 midfield chief honed his skills in Queens

Jack McGlynn, the USA's central midfielder at the 2023 U-20 World Cup, with older brother Conor (left), who plays for the USL Championship's Hartford Athletic.

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Ben Boehm, who for decades served as director of coaching of Blau-Weiss Gottschee, remembers the day he sat in the bleachers at Brennan Field in Middle Village, Queens, watching a couple boys playing on the field.

"There wasn't anything organized going on," Boehm says, "but these two boys were hitting the ball to each other from various ranges. Sometimes close together, other times 30 yards or more apart."

Boehm was struck not only by the precision of their passes, but how they arrived with just the right spin for the receiver to conveniently control the ball.

"I remember thinking, those aren't 'American' passes," Boehm says.

They were indeed U.S. kids. A 12-year-old Jack McGlynn and his 17-year-old older brother Conor.

"At one point they start dribbling, kind of fooling around," Boehm says. "You can imagine how difficult it would be for the younger boy to get past the older boy. Jack threw a fake and nutmegged Conor. Then Jack, after the nutmeg, drops to the ground like he's celebrating a goal.

"That night I called  [New York-based Soccer America columnist] Paul Gardner, because we had been watching youth games together and agreed there was something missing. It was played too much at 'right angles,' we called it. I told him these kids were striking the ball in way that was missing from so much American soccer. And they were playing in the unorganized way that develops what we've been wanting to see. I said I'd have paid $20 for a seat to watch them."

Conor McGlynn played four years of college ball at Siena College and is now in his fourth season of USL Championship season with Hartford Athletic.

Jack McGlynn left Gottschee, where their father Paul McGlynn succeeded Boehm as director of coaching, to join the Philadelphia Union's U-17s for the 2019-20 season.

By 2021, Jack McGlynn signed a Philadelphia Union MLS Homegrown contract. He's currently in Argentina, marshaling the USA's midfield at the U-20 World Cup, at which the USA advanced to the round of 16 (Tuesday vs. New Zealand) after winning all three its Group B games.

"Jack is a key player, and has been for the whole cycle," U.S. U-20 head coach Mikey Varas says. "Jack brings us a range of possession and a range of playmaking that I think is at a really high level. On top of that, he's a really hard worker and he'll put in an honest shift every time he gets on the field."

McGlynn arrived at the U-20 World Cup with 51 MLS regular-season games under his belt and six playoff appearances, including a start in the Union's 2022 MLS Cup loss to LAFC. This season he's played in nine MLS and six Concacaf Champions League games.

The 19-year-old commanded the midfield in a crucial 1-0 opening win over Ecuador, a third-place finisher at the previous U-20 World Cup, in 2019, after knocking out the USA in the quarterfinals.

In the 3-0 win over Fiji, McGlynn delivered the kind of pass he practiced with his brother — a lofted 30-yard delivery, timed perfectly for Diego Luna to meet inside the penalty area, settle, and relay for Cade Cowell, who scored the second goal.

"I played for Gottschee for like 10 years," says McGlynn, who was born in Queens in 2003. "My dad was the director, my brother played there. There's a storied history there. It's a great club and they taught me so much in my development."

Gottschee was founded in Queens in 1951 by Gottscheers, who hail from a German-speaking area in what is now Slovenia. The USA's 1990 captain Mike Windischmann played for the club, as did U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame goalkeeper Arnie Mausser, and the 1984 U.S. Olympian and New York Cosmos defender Erhardt Kapp. Timothy Weah played for Gottschee before moving to Paris Saint-Germain’s academy.

"I played with my brother everyday," McGlynn said. "And we would play pickup games in the park across the street."

It was combination of soccer that "I learned so much from," he says.

The best previous U.S., performance at a U-20 World Cup came in a 1989, when the Bob Gansler-coached team finished in fourth place after reaching the semifinals with a 2-1 win over Iraq in which Gottschee alum Dario Brose scored the gamewinner.

While Varas will only say the USA is taking it "one game at a time," McGlynn says the goal is to take the title.

"We all believe we can win at all," he says. "That's why we're here and that's why we've done so well so far. We all believe in each other and trust each other on the field and that's why we believe we can go all the way."

That he and his teammates already have pro experience is a major benefit.

"Playing those big games with your club kind of gets rid of the pressure when you play here," he said.

How different is competing at the U-20 World Cup compared to battling it out in MLS games?

"I don't really view games differently," he says. "You take every game as it's kind of your last one, you put everything on the field and try to have your best performance possible."

If the USA beats New Zealand, it will face the Gambia-Uruguay winner in the quarterfinals June 4. The semifinals are on June 8, and if this team makes U.S. U-20 history,  the final game is June 11.

16 comments about "Jack McGlynn: USA's U-20 midfield chief honed his skills in Queens".
  1. Santiago 1314, May 29, 2023 at 9 p.m.

    Hope he's in the Starting Line-Up, for the Rest of the Tournament(He had Yellow and had to sit most of Last Group game)
    Only player with any real Soccer Brain on the Team;
    Which Means he will Likely never amount to much for the Full XX Team... Similar to Mihailovic, Busio, LDLT... 
    We have to change the Whole Team, to play at the Pace, Rhythm these guys want to play at.
    Maybe he should get one of those "Tuck" Bathing Suits from Target/Adidas and play for the XY Team.!?!?!?

  2. Wooden Ships replied, May 30, 2023 at 12:14 p.m.

    Santi, you've hit the nail on the head regarding style/pace of play. This has been the number one fault with USMNT and USWNT since the 70's. Part of the reason Hugo was exhiled. We embraced the English, German, etc. approach. We've gone this direction because most of the mainstream players and now leaders didn't have the technical and IQ to play different. Those players, and they've been here, were an afront to the establishment. Still are. Rumor is that Marsch, Jessie not Rodney, has the inside track. More of the same. We are accepting very few difference makers with the ball. Maybe we can find someone that can hack the heat bras. We would really benefit from realizing we are in the americas, not Europe. 

  3. humble 1 replied, May 30, 2023 at 1:29 p.m.

    Very negative take guys.  I don't have either of your background in futbol, but I watch a lot of Uruguay for a long time.  I know the US team is on par with Ecuador - saw it with my own eyes - and the result shows.  Uruguay played Equador twice in U20 WCQ - tied 1-1, won 2-1.  This is a step forward.  Our keeper is very good.  Best I've seen.  Still watching Uruguay - we have the upper hand in GK, and the team, I think US could beat Uruguay.  This is the bottom line guys.  Winning in competitions.  We will see how this shakes out - but for me - there is a lot of progress being made in men/boys youth soccer and the results are showing in the YNT and MNY results.  Not perfect, long road to being world class, but making progress from the low point of 2017 when we failed to the WC.  Good day.  

  4. humble 1 replied, May 30, 2023 at 1:57 p.m.

    Hat's off to Jack McGlynn.  I have not focused on watching him play - will look out for him.  Great story.  Thank you.  McGlynn has the Irish passport I believe - this is also helpful.  He is left footed CMF - this is always a consideration.  There are two players arriving late from Europe - to the midfield - that could effect his playing time as well - Rokas Pukstas, right footed CMF, and Kevin Paredes, left footed LMF.  Pukstas, has Lithuanian recognition and Paredes, Dominican.  These international features are frequently a factor in an individual youth players singular development in the context of our system.  Frequently overlooked, they are features that result in enhanced soccer culture in the home.  Having enhanced soccer culture in the home does not make you a better player, but it does make it more likely you will play and play often and wherever you can as described above. Well done!  Keep it going!   

  5. Santiago 1314 replied, May 30, 2023 at 9:57 p.m.

    Humble, Looking Forward to a Uruguay-USA Quarter-Final
    I wonder if Bielsa will be there to Scout the u20.!!!

  6. Santiago 1314 replied, June 1, 2023 at 12:48 a.m.

    Wooden, I don't think it's going to be Marsch
    USSF is going to look REALLY STUPID, if they Waited 7 months to Bring in a guy that they could have had since February...
    I'm hoping for Cherundulo or Curtain.
    If Cherundulo can pull off North American Champions Liga, then it should be him

  7. frank schoon, May 30, 2023 at 8:37 a.m.

    Thanks, Mike, for the article for it just proves what I've been saying all along, why do we need to have licensed coaches involved in youth soccer. Cruyff once stated licensed coaches are an anethema to the development of youth soccer.  It is all about 'pickup and playing with mixed ages in an unorganized fashion, a process that requires unlicensed coaches or any coach. Jacks backround has so much of that, playing MIXED AGE pickup soccer and just passing back and forth working on technique.

    Talking about getting rid of 'pay to play' and ,if you do 'pay to play' IT IS NO GUARANTEE OF LEARNING ANYTHING, other than being 'PROGRAMMED' by some uncreative coach who couldn't trap a bag of cement.

    American youth are terrible in passing, they don't have feel, nor touch for the ball nor sense of direction. I sensed McGlynn's capabilities early last year and mentioned but totally forgot about him later on.  Where have you ever driven past a soccer field in your neighborhood or just any open area and seen two kids passing the ball back and forth or against a wall. NOWHERE, maybe on Mars? Or how 'bout two girls passing the ball back and forth....if you see that, you'll probably see cars banging into each other through sudden stops ,because the drivers have just seen something unbelievable, for that doesn't happen.... 

    Boem noticed right away the difference from a distance how these two brothers were passing. In Amsterdam during my street soccer days, I would be kicking a rubber ball back  or plastic ball back  and forth with little bounce, to my friend, who later ended played for the Dallas Tornados, after leaving Ajax, in the '60's. Kids in those days, nothing to do would just bring a rubber ball out and kick back and forth for fun and not because we need to work on our passing and get better, that was never the intention. But looking back the average kid spend many hours either passing the ball against a wall or with a friend or's something you do.

    Ofcourse ,in my days there were no licensed coaches, or what Cruyff states there was no professionalism, which has hurt the development of the youth. Professionalism brings in the unnecessary 'dogmatisms' by those who like to teach soccer by the numbers and have no feel for the game. At Ajax the kids were taught by former players, or top amateurs who have no interest in being 'brainwashed' with classroom garbage. These players just tell it like what you should or not do or just let it happen. They teach the practical not the theoretical, they teach the 'streetwise' mannerisms .

  8. Wooden Ships replied, May 30, 2023 at 12:21 p.m.

    Frank, sorry I haven't gotten back to you lately, especially with Cruyffs mentor. Stuff just piling up on me lately. I think Santi mentioned it too, but McGlynn et al, will find it difficult to find their way on the starting 11 or the roster, as long as we continue with the same ole same ole. 

  9. frank schoon replied, May 30, 2023 at 1:29 p.m.

    Hi, Ships, glad to hear from you.....You're right, we'll see what will happen. 

  10. humble 1 replied, May 30, 2023 at 1:40 p.m.

    Frank, I agree with most you write, but sometimes, you wanna bring Holland of your youth the USA - and raise Cryuff from the grave and put him in charge here.  He is for sure smiling from above as Feyenoord and brought the championship home to their beloved tin can stadium, but here, we gotta work with what we have.  My son won some cash in a 3v3 street ball rules tournament recently, he has played a lot of pickup soccer, from K to 5th - twice every day - and - every chance he gets.  Is this why he is one of the most dangerous playmakers in town with range and accuracy not often seen in youth games?  No.  When he was 11 we transfered to a club with three teams - and he had to play up with HS boys.  His teammates and coach demanded harder and strong balls.  I took him to the park and we worked on striking the ball.  It was the club that stimulated this.  This is how it is in Uruguay.  You play at high level - all the weakness in your game are identified - and it  is on you - the player to get better.  You do it - you stay and maybe move up - you do not - you fall behind.  There is no static space in youth development.  Not possible.  You use street soccer, parks, whatever on your own.  It is stimulated by your club experience.  You seek mentors, mates, trainers, whatever, if you are determined to get better.  My player was behind from the get go - he did not have his own soccer ball until he was 5.  Not a soccer player from the womb, but slow but sure, and always stimulated by club, and in spite of myself, he keeps getting better.  Street soccer, it can help, so can licenced coaches, but it is the clubs that set the standards.  This is not Brazil.  We are not going to have a Rio soccer here, we gotta work, iteratively to get better, with what we have.  More street soccer, it can help, but also more licenced coaches that actually have experience and know and played the game, this is ok too.  All adds up.  C'mon! 

  11. humble 1 replied, May 30, 2023 at 1:48 p.m.

    Let me just add - for me the two most important things for USSF to do - are - (1) legislate to stop discriminating against small clubs in leagues run by so called 'youth soccer organizations' like USYS, AYSO and US Club soccer - remove all barriers to entry that require 10 teams and 10 Full fields owned or leased for 10 years.  This is mostly discriminating against latino clubs and teams.  This is segregation in soccer.  (2) Give credit to coaches with licenses from abroad - Honduras - Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, all these licenses should be easy to xfer - and be recognized - just pass a simple English - I mean simple - soccer terms - to show you can communicate in basic English.  I know so many former pros with licenses could be working at higher levels - but get stopped.  We need all the good coaches we can get here.  Do it for the youth.  Our youth has to be the priority at USSF - not the organizations that claim to serve them.  Thank you.  Good day.  

  12. frank schoon replied, May 30, 2023 at 2:51 p.m.

    Humble, I agree on some things but when it comes to youth development, the individual 'savviness'  players cannot be coached or taught. That was my point about Luna ,previously. The important aspect of youth development ,the individuality is done from within not from without. You mentioned your club stressed hitting balls harder, well that doesn't take any brains, but how do you tell a player to dribble better or see the game better , which is totally different ,something a youth  has to develop inwardly by doing. You can't teach that aspect. There are many other aspects of the game a coach can't teach, but is learned through doing.  As Boem stated watching Jack pass the ball back and forth, it didn't look like two American boys passing....You just don't see that, here, which supports about what I'm what I stated about licensed coaches, the thousands we have in this country...useless!! . WHY CAN'T WE AN AMERICAN YOUTH PASS LIKE THAT?, like Boem stated. 

    Clubs set standards ,that's true, they do at Ajax but that's a whole different ball of wax because it is all about who is used to teach the standards, as they at Ajax....Count yourself lucky with your son, Humble...I hope the best for him, and keep up on him, OK.

  13. Santiago 1314 replied, June 1, 2023 at 12:44 a.m.

    Frank, I think it's more about the Parents...
    Me and my High School Buddies would go out and Play Pick-Up or Wall Ball or Soccer Golf back in the 70s... EVERYDAY .. ON OUR OWN.!!!
    We had a Club President from Den Haag, and he Brought in a Trainer from Local College... More of a Skills Coach... I am Confident, if we had the same "Environment" as Today(MLS) we could be better than them... We Loved the Game, LIVED THE GAME... Now, if Momy and Daddy Don't Yank the Cell Phone from the Kids Hands, Drive them an Hour to Pay-To-Play Coach, The Kid is Staying SOFT on the Couch...

  14. humble 1 replied, June 1, 2023 at 12:36 p.m.

    Great dialogue Frank.  Of coure the kid learned a lot before club.  What club does that is important is it gives him the opportunity to refine his skills in the context of the organized game - with different tactics and approaches.  MLS struggled to do this.  USL filled the gap.  The playground player - like in basketball - cannot simple apply his skills to the organized professional game - there is a transition period - many talents fail to convert.  Long ago in Boston at the Garden - I watched the Harlem Globe Trotters.  This was free play talent at it's best - but these were not NBA players.  I am not disagreeing with what you write - I know pretty well how it works in Brazil - all the kids that get into academies - at 14 - are cracks - only a few go on to become professionals.  We need more free play - I am 100% in agreement on this - my kid played futsal - extensively - organized and disorganized - he played beach soccer - he played at recess at school - every chance.  This was critical in his development.  But to play in college - he needs to translate those skills into the organized game context.  This is a challenge.  To do this we need lots of trainings - and - lots of games.  There was a black hole in this space in the USA - before 2018 - USL came along and in five years - filled it - bit by bit - we are now seeing the products - players that played on the playground - that can play as professinals.  We need more like this.  We need more playgrounds - and more organized contexts - from 18 to 23.  C'mon! 

  15. frank schoon replied, June 2, 2023 at 12:16 p.m.

    Santi, I agree on your points about MLS and pickup...

  16. frank schoon replied, June 2, 2023 at 12:39 p.m.

    Humble, I agree, you do need to translate the skills into an organized context. Yes, but that happens in the development process, all along.  The skills and touch come first and that is the MAJOR part for once you've reached that level  you can survive and play anywhere. And depending on the position on the field you prefer as you develop, you tend to draw more attention to the dynamics of that position and of the players who play that position. The technique as a result for that position becomes more functional..

    That is what the coach can't teach on an organized fashion, he picks the players who best play together and who are good at position. So what the coach  does is so far beyond and seperate from what I stated in the first paragraph....

    As far as technique in a organized fashion, a good example is with Ajax or rather at WC'74 with Ruud Krol who played leftback but was right footed. He was former right winger, an attacker. They wanted him to overlap and cross the ball, but you know what happens when a rightfooted winger crosses, he has to turn. This is why, Kroll practiced on his own 30minutes after practice crossing with his left which resulted in the goal Cruyff scored against Brazil. Likewise Cruyff didn't have strong leftfoot for crossed from the leftside although he can dribble and pass the ball with his left with no problem, so that whenever he crossed ,he employed the outside of his rightfoot.  So this is my point , technique comes FIRST, technique employed in an organized manner is no problem but in special cases as I metioned it only comes in to play....

    Realize most of these youth coach can't teach technique as related to organized play. I like to see one them able to cross a ball on the run with the outside of the rightfoot from the flank....These skills can only have gotten when having gone through stage mentioned in my first paragraph....So few coaches have the ability to teach skills in that manner, which to me is a loss to the kids....

    As far as college ball goes, the coach is happy if you can handle in that position....

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