Where Are They Now: Cornell Glen’s journey from Carson to the World Cup and beyond
CARSON, Calif. – The sport of soccer has surely earned nickname “The Beautiful Game,” not simply because the artful tricks that one can perform with the ball, but also the exotic locales that a career in the sport can take you. Former LA Galaxy forward Cornell Glen is a perfect example of this fact, having crisscrossed the globe in search of sporting glory.
The 31-year-old’s club career has taken him from Trinidad and Tobago to MLS and then onto outposts like Vietnam and India, where he currently plays for Shillong Lajong F.C., with countless other destinations along the way. Over the course of his near 15-year professional career, Glen has enjoyed an incredible journey, but no year was more memorable than 2006 when he represented Trinidad and Tobago in the 2006 World Cup. While representing his country that summer in Germany serves as the year’s brightest highlight, it was his performance in the fifth edition of the SuperClasico that truly got the year started for Glen.
In April 2006, the then 24-year-old Glen was acquired by the Galaxy in a trade from the Colorado Rapids. Just days after joining his fifth MLS team in three years, Glen was thrown into the starting XI by then-LA head coach Steve Sampson for his team’s match against Chivas USA.
The Rojiblancos, who were winless in four previous meetings with their in-stadium rivals, appeared to be on the way to their first win after Ante Razov tallied in the 46th minute to give Chivas a 1-0 lead. Although the Galaxy had their chances to equalize, Chivas headed into the final ten minutes of the game confident of their first ever SuperClasico victory, only for Glen to tally twice, both times off incredible passes from Landon Donovan, to give the Galaxy yet another victory over their hated rivals and assure Glen of a place in local lore.
“I remember Landon sent in two great balls and I did what I know how to do best. I just simply love finishing and scoring goals,” Glen told LAGalaxy.com in a phone interview from India earlier this week. “Playing with Landon was one of the best experiences of my career because he is one of the best players in CONCACAF. He was unbelievable, but he remains one of the game’s truly most underrated players.”
“[Cornell] scored those goals against Chivas and any time you do that then you go down in Galaxy folklore,” said current Galaxy left back Todd Dunivant, who was in the starting XI that day.
The two goals against Chivas started an incredible run for Glen, who would make just two more appearances for LA before joining Trinidad and Tobago ahead of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The Soca Warriors had qualified for the tournament for the first time in their nation’s history a year earlier with Glen primarily featuring off the bench throughout qualifying. But in Germany, he was given greater responsibility by head coach Leo Beenhakker.
Glen was incredibly active as a second half substitute in Trinidad’s scoreless draw with Sweden in their opening match, which nearly saw him find the back of the net multiple times. He provided the same energy days later as the Soca Warriors fell 2-0 to England, a game that saw him draw considerable acclaim from the English press.
“It was a great experience and one of those experiences that you dreamt of playing soccer as a kid,” said Glen. “We earned one point and the five million people of Trinidad and Tobago got to live that experience. We were busy in camp preparing for the games, but the whole experience in itself was something that you’d never forget.”
Glen’s future seemed to be skyrocketing up toward the heavens after the England match, but in the Soca Warriors’ final match against Paraguay, he fell to Earth. Given the start in Trinidad and Tobago’s eventual 2-0 defeat to Paraguay, Glen tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the closing minutes of the first half. The injury would end his World Cup and his season with the Galaxy.
The injury would have a profound impact on Glen’s career as he was released by the Galaxy after the season due to injury concerns. After spending the next two and a half seasons playing in Trinidad and Tobago, Glen returned to MLS in May 2009, signing with the San Jose Earthquakes. However, injuries once again limited his effectiveness as he managed just 33 appearances with six goals in one and a half seasons in the Bay Area.
Even though Glen reached the highest summit in soccer by playing in the World Cup, is there a sense of what could have been with his career?
“The World Cup changed my career for the good in a sense that I got a lot of credibility because I didn’t just show up, I went and really performed. I thought I had a great couple of games, but then there was the injury which was really disappointing because coming off of the World Cup with the performances that I had, I could have really furthered my career,” said Glen. “But you know what? Whatever happens, happens. I’m just grateful for the experience to be there because even my idol [Liberian soccer legend] George Weah who I consider one of the greatest strikers ever never got the opportunity. I’m just grateful that I had the chance.”
Glen returned to Trinidad and Tobago after the end of his time in San Jose while also spending a portion of 2011 in Vietnam. However after scoring 16 goals for the TT Pro League’s North East Stars in 2012, Glen caught the eye of India’s Shillong Lajong. Eager to build off an 11th place finish a season prior, the club in India’s soccer mad North East signed Glen in June with the hopes of adding much needed pop in their attack while looking to battle for a league title.
The move has paid off at the start as Glen scored two goals last month in his first start—much like he did for LA back in 2006—to help Shillong to a 3-0 victory over three-time I-League champion Dempo.
“Things are going well. It’s still a young league that is still improving. It’s much more difficult than people think,” said Glen. “You hear about India and the first thing that you think is cricket instead of football, but it’s a competitive league with good quality and I’m enjoying it so far. I hope to have a good season.”
Although trading in the island of Trinidad for a territory fondly referred to as the “Scotland of the North East” might be considered quite the adjustment, Glen insists that he’s fitting in well in India.
“It’s more about football than cricket [in North East India] because it’s closer to Burma and China. People come out to support us and you get really good crowds here. In our last game, we had close to 20,000 at the stadium,” said Glen. “It’s a good small city. It’s very cosmopolitan and I’m enjoying it. The people are friendly in India, the culture is different and it takes some getting used to, but I’m really enjoying it.”
The move to India hasn’t stopped Glen’s international career as he remains a key member of the Soca Warriors with a total of 68 caps and 23 goals, which is the fifth best mark in the Island nation’s history.
Even though his time with the Galaxy has long since passed and his name has faded into club lore, Glen still has plenty of appreciation from his former teammates, who commend him on the incredible ride.
“For some that’s difficult and for others it is a wild ride that you’ll never be able to take up again in your life time. The cool part about our sport is that the whole world plays it and it can take you to all different parts of the world,” said Dunivant. “The fact that [Glen] has stuck with it and loves the game that much tells you everything about his love for the game.”
When Glen does hang up his boots and looks back on a career that took him from defined him as a true globetrotter, the former Galaxy man admits that he’ll be able to smile as he reflects on the road less traveled by because after all, isn’t life about the journey, not the destination?
“I will be pleased with my career. I gave my all everywhere that I’ve been and I’m satisfied with my performances that I’ve done all over the world,” said Glen. “All in all, as a player, you can hold your head high and be proud of what you did in your career. Hopefully, my kids can be proud as well.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com