Besides being a successful coach Manny Schellscheidt (right) with the 1988 McGuire Cup trophy, was a masterful teacher of the game. (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer.com)
Today is Manny Schellscheidt’s 80th birthday. On Nov. 28, 2011 I wrote this piece about Manny Schellscheidt for BigAppleSoccer.com. It is still quite appropriate today. Happy birthday, Manny!
By Michael Lewis
Of all what is written on his star-studded resume — and Manny Schellscheidt has one of the most impressive of any coach who has directed teams in American soccer — the one thing that will stand out to your truly is as a teacher of the beautiful game.
That’s because Schellscheidt was able to get his point across and have his young men play well and sometimes beautifully.
Schellscheidt, who announced his retirement as Seton Hall University men’s soccer coach at the age of 70 on Monday, did something many of would love to do — work at something we love to do — and with passion — well beyond the so-called retirement age of 65.
His knowledge, perception and passion of the beautiful game was second to none. His German accent added to the flair. He knew how the game should have been played and tried to teach his students — err, players — the proper way and path.
Sometimes they listened and it work, sometimes they didn’t and it did not work.
Schellscheidt was born to coach.
After playing some soccer in Germany, he helped Elizabeth S.C. of the German American Soccer League (now the Cosmopolitan Soccer League) to 1970 and 1972 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups. In 1973, he signed with the Philadelphia Atoms, who captured the North American Soccer League championship that year. He became a player-coach with the Rhode Island Oceaneers the next year and directed them to the American Soccer League title. He then joined the Hartford Bicentennials as coach for two seasons (1975 and 1976).
In 1975, Schellscheidt directed the U.S. national team for three matches, between the regimes of Al Miller (1974-75) and Walter Chyzowych (1976-80). He directed the team over a seven-day period in Mexico City, certainly never a walk in the park for any American team, losing to Costa Rica, 3-1, Argentina, 6-0, and Mexico, 2-0. Those were the days when it was a major occasion when the U.S. men’s national team got together. The Americans played all of five times that year.
He directed the New Jersey Americans to the 1977 ASL crown. He was named the coach of the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, then an amateur side, but he had the rug pulled out from under him just about at the last minute when professional players were allowed to perform in the Summer Games. So Alkis Panagoulias, then the U.S. national coach, decided to take over and the Americans still could not get out of the opening round, despite enjoying home-field advantage.
Undaunted, Schellscheidt wouldn’t give up what he loved.
He took over the Seton Hall reins in 1988 and guided the Pirates to a pair of Big East championship and eight NCAA Division I tournament appearances. In recent years, however, Seton Hall lacked the bite of his recent teams and they finished with losing records from 2007 through 2011, finishing at 5-11-2 this season.
And when he wasn’t directing the Pirates, Schellscheidt was running the show with the Union Lancers, who won back-to-back U.S. Youth Soccer Under-19 national titles, no mean feat because those were the days when there were only two age groups — Under-16 and U-19.
He also went on to work with U.S. Soccer, coaching several youth national sides, most recently the U-14 team.
And please, no campaigns for getting Manny into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
I’m not against it. It’s that just he’s already a member. In fact, he was elected some 21 years ago in 1990. Now, how many 49-year-olds do you know who get elected into a national hall of fame when they are still at the top of their game?
I had two introductions to Schellscheidt — 13 years apart — once when he was Bicentennials coach in 1975 and when he directed the Lancers team in 1988.
In 1975, I was with the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, covering the original NASL. For a preview story for the Rochester Lancers’ home game against the Bicentennials, I wrote a story about the number of own goals in the league that season. It was barely the middle of July and there already had been four scored. The annual average was five.
Why talk to the Bicentennial coach about it? Well, Schellscheidt’s team had recorded not one, but two 1-0 wins, through own goals. No mean feat.
“Most of the own goals are results of heavy pressure by the offense on the defense,” Schellscheidt said at the time. “It’s usually a desperate move by the defense to relieve itself of the pressure, such as passing the ball away from the offense back to the goalie. But this can backfire. No one wants to score against himself.”
Of course, Schellscheidt wasn’t going to give any of them back because the Bicentennials, one of five expansion teams that year, had only three wins in 11 games and found themselves in last place in the Northern Division.
“We have a problem scoring goals, so I’ll take them any way we can get them,” he said. “Perhaps we’ve been lucky. But a goal is a goal.”
In 1988, I ironically watched his Lancers — the Union Lancers — someone by the name of Bob Bradley was the assistant coach (hmmm, wonder whatever happened to him?), capture the U.S. Youth Soccer Boys U-19 crown for the second consecutive year — during U.S. Soccer’s 75th anniversary celebrations in Philadelphia. This team was fun to watch and it could win at as well. One of the members of that team? Richie Williams, who is now directing the U.S. U-18 national team.
I also will remember Schellscheidt for his bluntness. He told it like it is/was. No one was safe, not even sportswriters. Well, at least I knew where I stood with him.
Moreover, Schellscheidt knows where he stands with the game and life. He would be the first to tell you that while he was a masterful teacher, he still was a student of the game and forever learning about the sport.