Harry Keough, who played for the US soccer team that famously upset England at the 1950 World Cup, died on Tuesday at his home in St Louis, Missouri. He was 84.
US Soccer Federation spokesman Michael Kammarman said his death was confirmed by his son Ty Keough, who also played for the US national team.
A defender who had one goal in 19 appearances for the US from 1949 to 1957, Keough coached St Louis University to five collegiate titles. He was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1976.
Of all his accomplishments, Keough is best remembered for what happened in Brazil. He started all three games for the US at the 1950 World Cup and was captain when the US played Spain in their opening match. The 1-0 win over England in the US’ second game is regarded by many as one of the greatest upsets in soccer history.
“We didn’t feel we needed to beat them, but we felt if we could just play pretty good, it would be enough,” Keough recalled in a 2002 interview. “In our minds, if we lost 2-0 we’d feel pretty good about ourselves.”
Keough was a youth player for the St Louis Schumachers. While serving in the US Navy after World War II, he joined the San Francisco Barbarians. After the military, he played in St Louis for Paul Schulte Motors and was picked for the US team at the 1949 North American Football Confederation Championship.
He was among five from the St Louis area in the lineup against England, a group profiled in the movie The Game of Their Lives.
On June 29, 1950, in Belo Horizonte, the US faced a lineup that included Alf Ramsey, Tom Finney and Stanley Mortensen. Surprisingly, the US went ahead in the 37th minute when Walter Bahr collected a throw-in from Ed McIlvenny and took a shot from about 25m that Joe Gaetjens deflected past goalkeeper Bert Williams with a diving header.
“They were outplaying us. We were chasing them most of the time,” Keough said during a 2005 interview. “My thought was: ‘They’re really going to come down on us hard.’”
“For us to be ahead at the half was one thing,” he said. “For us to hold it was another.”
Keough remembered the England players starting to panic in the final minutes.
“They could see it slipping from them,” Keough said. “They didn’t ever dream we could beat them. Neither did we, for that matter.”
The US held on for the victory, which was front-page news in England, but was buried deep in most US sports sections. The US fell behind Chile by two goals in their next game, came back to level early in the second half, but were eliminated in a 5-2 defeat.
An employee of the US Postal Service while a player, Keough coached Florissant Valley Community College, then was hired by St Louis. His first team were National Collegiate Athletic Association co-champions in 1967 and he went on to coach the Billikens to titles in 1969, 1970, 1972 and 1973. He retired after the 1982 season.
With Keough’s death, the US Soccer Federation believes Bahr, Frank Borghi and John Souza are the last surviving members of the 1950 World Cup team.