With a combined 100 years coaching high school soccer, theirs is a storied match-up, if not exactly a rivalry: Terry Michler, 68, whom Topdrawersoccer.com has called the “dean of high school coaching in the American soccer history books,” in his 44th season coaching the boys’ varsity team at Christian Brothers College High School (CBC) in St. Louis, faced off against Miller A. Bugliari, 80, no less an icon of high school soccer, in his 57th season as head coach of Big Blue. To be clear, the match, which kicked off the Gateway City Soccer Classic in St. Louis last Thursday, October 1, was between the teams. That said, as the two winningest high school soccer coaches in the nation, the Miller (820-104-68) versus Michler (911-212-99) story was every bit as compelling as the match itself.
Both men are alumni of the schools they have spent their entire professional careers at (Mr. Michler, CBC Class of ’65; Coach Miller, Pingry Class of ’52). Both are light years ahead of their next closest competitor in terms of overall wins—Mr. Michler has 911 to Coach Miller’s 820, but Coach Miller, with a .862 winning percentage compared to Mr. Michler’s .786, earns the distinction of the nation’s winningest coach. Both have guided their teams to abundant state, county, and conference titles over their many, many years coaching the sport. Both are beloved by their institutions. And so, last Thursday, as the two teams opened one of the nation’s premier soccer tournaments, which this year fielded 57 top teams from eight different states, attention was particularly focused on their legendary coaches.
The men met for the first time at midfield before the start of the match, which was streamed live by the school’s Cadet Student Network. Mr. Michler remarked beforehand that a scoreless tie would be ideal, but with 15 games under CBC’s belt compared to Big Blue’s seven, CBC had a definite fitness advantage. Big Blue also had to leave two of its key players behind due to injury. Entering the match, Pingry was 6-1, with a state ranking of #4 among non-public “A” schools. CBC, a boy’s school, stood 13-2, with a #3 state ranking. Despite dominating the first half with a 1-0 early lead, an unfortunate penalty kick was called against Big Blue and they ultimately fell to the Cadets, 3-1.
“They were pretty threatening in the second half,” senior Jack Casey told STLhighschoolsports.com. “They came out faster than us and got the early goal, and we couldn’t get back from that.”
Two days later, Big Blue played St. John Vianney High School, and won, 2-1.
“Thursday’s game was really special for the whole team, especially Coach Bugliari,” said Jack. “As a team, we all wanted to win for Coach Bugliari because we know how great a coach he is and how special that would be. . . Of course we are very disappointed with the loss against CBC, but it was a privilege for me and the rest of the team to play for Coach and represent Pingry in the game.”
Prior to the match, Mr. Michler told Topdrawersoccer.com, “I have a lot of respect for Miller, for what he's done, for how long he's done it, and for how he's done it. [The game] will be a big moment."
And, despite the loss, it was.
Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, email@example.com