February 7, 2012
By Michael Lewis
Keough, member of U.S. team that upset England in 1950 World Cup, dies
Soccer legend Harry Keough, a member of the U.S. National Team that stunned England and the rest of the world at the 1950 World Cup, died on Tuesday morning. He was 84.
A native of St. Louis, Keough made 84 appearances for the United States, scoring one goal. But his most famous game was against heavily favored England in the World Cup, a game that the Americans won, 1-0.
According to former teammate and friend Walter Bahr, the Keough family had placed Harry in a hospice a few days ago.
“He was as good a teammate you would find on or off the field,” Bahr said by telephone.
“I think he played soccer like he lived life. He was a lively player, a steady player. He knew his limits. He never talked about himself off the field.”
Goalkeeper Frank Borghi, one of three surviving members of the team along with John (Clarkie) Souza, Tuesday called Keough "a great person" and "a wonderful soccer player."
"He was a great player and a great coach for St. Louis University," Borghi said from St. Louis. "He knew the game very, very well. . . . He was a very intelligent player. He knew how to cover a man on a man-to-man system. "
U.S. Soccer acknowledged that the sport had lost one of the greats and a gentleman.
“We are all saddened by the loss of such an important man in the history of U.S. Soccer,” U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said in a statement. “Harry was a true pioneer, representing the finest of a generation of men and women who built the foundations for soccer in the United States on which we stand today. While his participation on the U.S. team that beat England in the 1950 FIFA World Cup remains a memory that fans around the world treasure, it is his lasting contribution to soccer in St. Louis and around the country as a player and a coach that will be his true legacy. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Alma, and his children Ty, Colleen and Peggy.”
A member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, Keough was one of the stalwarts of the U.S. National Team during the 1940s and 1950s. He earned 19 caps, scoring once for the USA in a 5-1 World Cup qualifying loss to Canada in 1957.
Like it or not, Keough was best remembered for helping anchor a backline against the heavily favored English in the 1950 World Cup. It was England's first participation in a World Cup after years of ignoring the grand event.
“We would have been happy with a 2-0 loss because we would have thought, 'Gee, they would have walked all over us.' In our wildest dreams we didn’t think we’d ever win,” Keough said.
With 20 minutes remaining, midfielder Charles Colombo tackled Stan Mortensen at the edge of the penalty area, stopping him from going in on keeper Frank Borghi.
“Charlie took a head-long dive and hit him right in the back of the knees,” Keough said, “a tackle anybody in the NFL would have been proud of.
“The momentum they were both going, they both were at the penalty spot when they stopped. Charlie bulldozed him all the way. He [Mortensen] was mad as hell as anybody would have been. The referee came up and yelled at Charlie. Charlie claimed the referee said, ‘Bono, bono’ — good [in Italian].”
When the final whistle sounded, fans raced onto the field and hoisted players on their shoulders. “Boy, I feel sorry for these bastards,” Keough told teammate Pee-Wee Wallace. “How are they ever going to live down the fact we beat them?”
Keough did have a soccer career beyond the game. He represented the U.S. at the Olympics and also performed for St. Louis Kutis, who captured the 1957 U.S. Open Cup crown and the Nation Amateur Cup six successive times between 1956 and 1961.
Moreover, he also forged a career as a successful college coach, first with Florissant Valley Community College. He then took over as head coach of the St. Louis University soccer team in 1967, where he posted a 213-50-23 record before retiring in 1982.
In his first season, the Billikens shared NCAA championship honors with Michigan State. Keough guided St. Louis to four crowns during the next five years. Those national titles came in 1969 (4-0 win against San Francisco), 1970 (1-0 win against UCLA), 1972 (4-2 victory against UCLA) and 1973 (2-1 overtime win against UCLA). The Billikens also advanced to the 1971 and 1974 championship games. Keough’s six consecutive appearances in the championship final from 1969 to 1974 remains a men’s soccer record to this date.
Keough was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1976, along with his other U.S. teammates from the 1950 World Cup team. Keough’s other honors included an induction into the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame (1972), the St. Louis University Athletic Hall of Fame (1995) and the NSCAA Hall of Fame (1996).
Keough is survived by wife Alma and his three children, Ty, Colleen and Peggy.