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XI Questions: Glenn "Mooch" Myernick

12/08/2005, 6:04pm CST
By NATHAN LEAF

U.S. men's national team assistant coach

Age: 50 (born Dec. 29, 1954).
Hometown: Denver.
Family: Wife, Nancy; daughter, Kelly; son, Travis.
Playing career: College — Hartwick College, Oneonta, N.Y., 1974 and '76. Professional — NASL (two goals, 23 assists in 163 games): Dallas Tornado, 1977 to '79; Portland Timbers, 1980 to '82; Tampa Bay Rowdies, 1983-84. International — Defender made 10 appearances for the U.S. national team from 1975 to '79.
Coaching career: U.S. national team assistant, 2002 to present; MLS Colorado Rapids, 1997 to 2000; U.S. Soccer coaching staff and national coaching coordinator, 1992 to '97; U.S. Olympic team assistant, 1996; U.S. Under-17 coach, 1995; U.S. Under-17 assistant, 1994; U.S. Under-20 assistant, 1989 to '93; regional ODP coach, 1989 to '91; Hartwick College assistant, 1986; University of Tampa assistant, 1985.
Honors: All-American in 1974 and '76; Hermann Trophy winner as country's top college player, 1976.
Favorite clubs: I don't have a favorite club, I just like to watch good games.
About his nickname: It was given to him by his sister, who thought his antics reminded her of the character "Moochie" from the Mickey Mouse Club.

I. What's the best goal you've ever seen?

I think the goal that Maradona scored in the World Cup against England where he picks the ball up near the halfway line. There may be some other spectacular goals ... but the fact that he made that run in that game at that level in that event makes that the most spectacular goal I've ever seen.

II. What's the strangest experience abroad that you've had with the national team?

The most disappointing experience I have ever had was (when) I was in the Mateo Flores Stadium (in Guatemala City for a World Cup qualifier between Costa Rica and Guatemala) scouting for Steve Sampson when he was the coach of the 1998 World Cup team ... and someone had produced phony tickets. The stadium was already packed. People showed up with what they thought were legitimate tickets and they had locked the stadium doors. Fans broke through a door, tried to pile into the stadium and (84) people were crushed to death. That's by far the most upsetting soccer experience I've ever had.

A pretty unique experience I had was the last time I scouted Portugal before the last World Cup was Portugal vs. China in Macao. My last mode of transportation to get to the game from my hotel was a rickshaw through absolute wall-to-wall people in the streets of Macao. This rickshaw guy has me in the back of this thing and he's just somehow finding a way to bob and weave and run through the streets and gets me about eight blocks to the stadium about 10 minutes before the kickoff. That was kind of cool.

III. What does scouting for the U.S. men's national team entail?

It's no different than some club coach going to go scout another club team or a high school team. You're looking for strengths, weaknesses, tendencies. How do they change the game? Who are the key personnel? You'll find the schedule of the teams you're going to play. You determine which games you want to go see that you think you can learn the most from. You find out are they going to have their full contingent of their roster there? Are the key players that make them go going to be involved in the game? Then you go to the game and I usually talk into a voice recorder while I'm watching the game as opposed to trying to write it down. Then I write it out later and try to support that with a videotape of the game if you can get that. It's not magic, and it's not a science.

IV. Did you ever mark Pele or George Best during your days as a defender in the North American Soccer League, and what was that like?

Oh yeah. It's not like they came over here and they were 45 years old. George Best came over here and was 29 years old. These were still very, very talented players who were key influences within their teams.

V. The U.S. is ranked No. 8 in the FIFA world rankings. Is that accurate?

I think it has the potential to be accurate. I believe that if you look at the number of very good European soccer nations and South American soccer nations that have been eliminated from the World Cup that deserve to be on that stage, it's hard to put a value on that. But I think the soccer world has become pretty small ... it really has become a truly global game. I think in soccer, on any given day, we have the ability to beat Brazil. And on the next day, be beaten by Panama.

VI. Who is the biggest practical joker on the U.S. team?

Well, Frankie Hejduk is not really a practical joker, but Frankie just approaches everything with a real chilled-out, "Let's just have fun" kind of attitude. And it's a little infectious throughout the team. Mind me, he's also one of our most competitive guys. But it's done with an attitude that keeps sport and everything in perspective. Frank does a pretty good job of keeping everybody loose.

A pretty good example was when, prior to our game against Mexico, as we went into the second game of the last World Cup ... President Bush called and we all went into a room and he was on a speaker phone ... (Bush) said how he knew we would represent the country with pride. And so (coach) Bruce (Arena) responds to it by thanking him for taking the time to recognize us and call us and that we're going to do our best to represent the country. President Bush says "Thanks very much, that's very nice." Bruce says, "Thank you very much Mr. President." To which Frankie then shouts out "Thanks Prez!"

He helps to keep the group loose.

VII. What's the biggest difference between the NASL and MLS?

I think the fact that MLS has a TV contract. I think the fact that there really is an investment in the domestic player, where in the NASL it was ... when I first started in the league, you had to have two North Americans on the field. And so, most of the teams, there were nine foreign players and two North Americans on the field. Some will say (that was) because there wasn't enough quality American players. I tend to disagree. Given a chance, there could have been more Americans on the field. But there wasn't any investment in the American player. There certainly wasn't a reserve league to develop the American player. So why would we have thought back then that we could produce a national team that could have any impact at the international level when we didn't even have domestic players?

I think the overall quality of the league was higher than the MLS.

VIII. What does the MLS mean to the national team?

It's huge. I think the fact that we now have a professional league that gives our players a daily platform on which to ply their trade, in a very professional setting in good stadiums at a good standard means a lot to the national team, because no matter what we do we're all products of our daily environment. And it's important that we have players at a high level. Yeah, we don't have everybody playing in the Premier League; we don't have everybody playing in the Bundesliga. But we couldn't put out a product that we do with the national team or have for the last couple of World Cups without a domestic league.

IX. What can you tell us about Bruce Arena that not many people know?

I think that the guy's work ethic is exemplary. He is a very loyal and generous guy. For whatever reason, there are people that think he's opinionated and he's gruff and he's abrupt and other words like that that people have applied to him. I just think that Bruce is a very straight-forward, no bullshit kind of guy that knows exactly who he is and exactly where he wants to go and isn't trying to fool anyone along the way. He's very detail-oriented. He expects an awful lot from the people who work for him and when he gets that he stands behind them 100 percent.

X. Why is there a void between the youth soccer participation in the U.S. and the popularity of the professional game and what will it take to fill that void?

That's a great question, and if there was one single answer to it we would have fixed it a long time ago. It's a complex equation to get to that. For those of us that are in soccer, we think that we have a soccer culture. And we do, but it's slowly coming in small increments. So I don't think that we have a soccer culture. I don't think that the (MLS) has had enough glamour to it in today's glamour-oriented society. And because of that, I still don't think you see enough players ... we see participation, but I still think we need more passionate participation. I think the fact that there is often antagonistic approach towards soccer by the media, and I think we need to do a better job at the coaching end of things in terms of player development. By that I'll say this: We have far too many coaches at the youth level whose philosophy and approach to the game is inappropriate for who they are coaching. It should be more about developing the player than winning the game.

XI. Your all-time NASL starting XI?

Goalkeeper: Jan Van Beveren, Holland (Fort Lauderdale Strikers).
Defenders: Carlos Alberto, Brazil (New York Cosmos, California Surf); Franz Beckenbauer, West Germany (New York Cosmos); Wim Rijsbergen, Holland (New York Cosmos); Rudolf "Rudi" Josef Krol, Holland (Vancouver Whitecaps).
Midfielders: Johann Cruyff, Holland (Los Angeles Aztecs, Washington Diplomats); George Best, Northern Ireland (Los Angeles Aztecs, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, San Jose Earthquakes); Patrick "Ace" Ntsoelenge, South Africa (Miami Toros, Denver Dynamo, Minnesota Kicks, Toronto Blizzard); Vladislav Bogicevic, Yugoslavia (New York Cosmos).
Forwards: Giorgio Chinaglia, Italy (New York Cosmos); Pele, Brazil (New York Cosmos).
Subs: Karl Heinz Granitza, West Germany (Chicago Sting); Eusebio, Portugal (Boston Minutemen, Toronto Metros, Las Vegas Quicksilver); and I'm picking myself as one of the subs, not because I'm anywhere near their class but, boy, I'd like to play with these guys.
Coach: Ron Newman (Dallas Tornado, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, San Diego Sockers).

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