Walt Chyzowych Fund Winners Michelle Akers & Al MIller

By Sean McCaffery, December 26, 2018

Each year at the NSCAA, now USC Convention, the highlight for me is this event. The room is a who's who of American Soccer very strong in the Collegiate ranks with Jerry Yeagley, Bruce Arena, and oh so many more, it is an hours long event with auctions and great times all around. This year it will be held Sat. Jan. 12 at McCormick Pl, Chicago in Hyatt Regency Ballrooms B,C & D @ 4p.m., sponsored by the Chicgo Fire. Begun after Walt passed in 1994, it honors and preserves his memory of his coaching career as USNT HC & Dir. of Coaching and more. It provides for scholarships for up and coming coaches.

Michelle Akers: Walt Chyzowych Distinguished Playing Career Award:

Much like the inagural winner of this honor, Landon Donovan, it is being given to an  individual, not a team as was last years, the 1992 & 1989 FIFA Five-a-Side USMNT's. Having met Pele and photographed a number of his events, we now look very much forward to meeting the greatest women's soccer player of all time, Michelle Akers and taking all together way too many photographs of her during the USC convention in Chicago. Since her arrival on the international soccer landscape in the '80's, following her distinguished time at U. of Central Florida to lead the US toward two world titles. "Walt Chyzowych devoted his life to making soccer better in our country" said Michelle upon being informed she is this year's esteemed winner, she continued, "While this may seem to be an individual award, soccer is a team sport, and no one wins an award without the help of so many other people." . Akers set the path for oh so many more players, an All-American at Shorecrest High in Seattle then a 4x All-American at Central Fl, taking the first ever MAC Hermann Award as the top female collegiate player. At 5'10"  she was head and shoulders over much of her competition a profound scorer at her natural forward position, she was just as adept at playing more withdrawn, descirbed by legendary coach Anson Dorrance as "a big lug who scores goals". She is best known for her play at the biggest of stages, international soccer, a key in the first USWNT, in 1985, she netted the first goal in a 2-2 draw with Denmark in 1985. The first FIFA World Championship for Women's Football ( World Cup), she struck for 10 goals in China, getting the Golden Boot, in the final she hit for a brace in a 2-1 win over Norway.  Blazing the trail commercially for the women's game she had the firt endorsement deal and was front and center with Robin Williams, Barry Manilsow and James Brown for the 1994 World Cup draw in Vegas. Various ailments not limited to Epstein-Barr did not deter her from ruling the 1996 Atlanta Olympics as the red-white-and blue took the first gold ever awarded in the games for women's soccer.  Michelle participated in the 1998 Goodwill Games hosted in NYC and MItchell FIeld LI, later receiving the FIFA Order of Merit for her positive contributions to the game. That put her in rare air with Pele, Nelson Mandela & Henry Kissenger. Falling back to a central midfielder in the 1999 World Cup where the US took another title as she was named to the All-Star team. The late great Tony DiCicco in speaking of her said, "the best woman who has ever played the game", we must agree with this tremendous coach who I did camps with back in the early mid 80's. 15 years of representing her nation with 105 goals over 153 games, "co-player of the century " as selected  by FIFA with China's Sun Wen. Michelle is on the list of the best 125 greatest living players by FIFA and an inductee in 2004 for the US Soccer HOF. Now with her playing days behind her, she devotes her time and efforts to horse rescue on her farm in GA where she also hosts her soccer camps.

Al Miller: Walt Chyzowych LIfetime Achivement Award:

Miller stated, "I am honored to receive this prestigous Award", adding "I loved him like a brother during my years in Philadelphia." A standout college player, Miller while at East Stroudsberg State College was  2x 2nd team All-American in 1958 & '59 entering their Hall of Fame in 1995. Off to upstate NY and New Paltz for their head coach position 1961-1966 as his 1963 team was in the final for the Atlantic Coast Conf. regional tourney, returing to win it in 1965, 3 NY Conf. titles in 6 years then into their HoF in 2008. Onto the hallowed position of HC @ Hartwick 1967-'72, his recruits included TImo Liekoski who won this same award in 2016, coached pro in and outdoor here and is now very involved with the Homeless World Cup & Terry FIsher who also coached in the pro and college ranks here and now heads the WA State Youth Soccer. We are honored to see these 2 at the last few conventions. At Hartwick he and Terry encountered Francisco Marcos & Alec Papadakis and with Marcos heading what is now the USL and Alec a long time USMNT coach this group shaped US soccer for years to come. A stellar 64-12-3 record at the 'Wick, the 1970 title game with a 14-1 record he was inducted to their HoF in 1995.With Miller at the helm soccer became a big time game at the school as it grew to national prominence. A few firsts came to pass, taking a college team on a European Tour, charging admission at hollowed Elmore Field to go with radio broacasts of the games. WIth thier successes and Oneonta being the home of the USSF Hall of Fame for some time socer was king in town. It has just reopened in the home of FC Dallas. Some of the earliest indoor tourneys were hosted by Hartwick under Thom Meredith who is still acitve nationwide with many top games. Quite the list of players were impacted by Al, including but harldy limited to  Liekoski , Jim Lennox (Hartwick coach), Eddie Austin, Glenn "Mooch" Myernick, Tony Elia, Dominic Kinnear (MLS), David D'Errico (USMNT Capt.), Billy Gazonas, Doug Wark, Mike Burns & Keith Van Eron (NY Apollo). Going from student as he was amongst the first to get a USSF A lisc. from the legendary Dettmar Kramer then traveled as a top asst. in the coaching schools to then assisting with the USMN & Olympic teams is quite the testament to his abilities as a coach. 1973 saw him as the head tocal of the first year NASL team, Philadelphia Atoms as they took the title with Bob Rigby (Cover of Sports Illustrated), Stan Startsell, Barry Barto, Bobby Smith (NY Cosmos & USMNT) & Norm WIngert (long time LI educator) who formed the core of players, Americans with many high level English players. A great 9-2-8 record got both the regular season and league titles, as they overcame the Toronto Metros 3-0 then the Dallas Tornados 2-0. This rookie coach got the nod for the pro coach of the year from The Sporting News. He went on to lead a few other teams here, the vanquised Tornado, Calgary Boomers & Tampa Bay Rowdies which he brought in 1983 to their 3rd indoor NASL title, joining in great company with Edie Firmani & Ron Newman in being the only coaches to get NASL titles in and outdoors. 1984-'88 saw him in the front office with the Cleveland Force of the MISL coached by fellow Chyzowych winners Liekoski & Jay Hoffman. Onto the Cleveland Crunch as Pres/GM and 3 titles in 1994,'96,& '99 over the next decade. A member of the USSF HoF since 1995 this is a true legend of the game.