Mississippi Gulf Coast men’s soccer coach Chris Handy claims a pretty important role in the journey of the latest U.S. men’s national team star Dom Dwyer.
Dwyer, a native of England who became a U.S. citizen in March, has scored goals in his first two games with the national team. His introduction to the United States came at Tyler Junior College, where Handy was an assistant from 2007-2011.
“(Tyler coach) Steve Clements and Chris Handy were both fantastic coaches,” Dwyer told USLsoccer.com this week in Tampa, Florida. “They mentored me and my friends through life, as well. I’m still in good contact with them all.”
Handy said he’s been texting with Dwyer during the Gold Cup, where Dwyer and his teammates are two-thirds of the way through the group stage. He’s seen him pay his way to Tyler for a year, earn a scholarship and dominate the NJCAA, becoming an All-American and Player of the Year. The Apaches went undefeated his two seasons, tying just one game.
He went on to play at the University of South Florida before being drafted as by Sporting KC in the MLS. Dwyer got sent down to Orlando City, a current MLS club that was in the USL at the time, and scored 15 times in 13 games.
His hard work generates the impressive scoring record he’s compiled now back with Sporting, where he’s got 57 goals in 128 games. That started under Handy, and he remembers a conversation they had in the spring of his freshman year.
“He scored 13 goals in his freshman year,” Handy said. “I remember him looking at me and saying, ‘I’m scoring 30-plus goals next year.’ I looked at him and said, ‘No, you’re not.’ He said, “I am.’”
Dwyer did, and he’s still benefiting from the things he learned playing community college soccer.
“I kind of grew up quite a lot there,” he said. “You learned to work hard. It was not easy. Junior college was rough. You have to fight for a lot of stuff, and they kind of toughen you up there. It was quite, almost military sometimes. They made sure we worked really hard every single day. You would jog to the waters, instead of just walking over. That’s kind of a habit; sometimes I still find myself running over to the waters.”
Handy, who has a 59-27-5 record in five years at Perk, helped coach Dwyer, and now he’s using lessons he learned there with MGCCC’s Jordan Hall. Hall, another English player, burst onto the MACJC stage last season when he scored 28 times in 18 games to rank second in the country as a freshman and earn All-American honors.
“They’re very similar players from very similar backgrounds,” Handy said. “They’re both left-footed, they’re both excellent finishers, they’re both hard workers. Some of the same things we needed to do with Dom, getting out of the way and giving him opportunities, are the same things we need to do with Jordan.”
Handy expects to be having more happy text exchanges and phone conversations with Dwyer in the future. He could very well be playing his way into a spot on the 2018 World Cup squad.
“I’ll never bet against the guy,” Handy said. “He’s led a blessed life and deserves everything he’s getting.”