GREATEST MOMENTS | Postal worker stamped Saint Louis soccer with greatness


Saint-Louis-greatestHarry Keough’s day job for 36 years was at the U.S. Postal Service, which is appropriate because he always delivered on the soccer field.

He was part of one of the greatest moments in American soccer history, a stunning 1-0 victory against England in the 1950 World Cup. Keough was a 22-year-old right fullback and one of five amateurs from St. Louis on that World Cup team, including goaltender Frank Borghi.

The St. Louis Post-Disptach captured the magnitude of the U.S. upset 53 years later, when Keough died in 2013:

The 1-0 win was so shocking it was treated suspiciously by newspapers when it first moved on the wires. (Only one American journalist, Dent McSkimming of the Post-Dispatch, was at the game.) The win turned the Americans into celebrities in Brazil — Borghi got carried off the field by Brazilian fans — but ultimately, the United States didn’t advance to the second round after losing its next match and the players returned to America in anonymity, with Keough resuming his duties for the post office.

He also resumed his amateur soccer career, captaining the U.S. teams at the 1952 and 1956 Olympics. In 1967, Keough took over as head coach at Saint Louis University when Bob Guelker left to start the soccer program at SIU Edwardsville.

Guelker had led SLU to five NCAA championships. But it was under Keough that the Billikens stamped their greatness in the sports moment judged the greatest in school history.

Keough’s SLU teams from 1967-82 won five NCAA titles (1967, 1969, 1970, 1972 and 1973) giving SLU a total  of 10 — the most of any Division I men’s soccer program. (The 1972 title was shared with San Francisco.)

His teams dominated, going unbeaten in 45 consecutive games from 1969-71. And from 1969-73, the Hermann Trophy awarded to the national player of the year went to one of Keough’s players.

His career record at SLU was 213-50-23.

“Coaching SLU in my day wasn’t that hard,” Keough once said. “We had outstanding individuals and depth.”

So much so that  Keough said he would go to the players he didn’t want and recruit them for other schools. His players were named to All-America teams 28 times, and more than 40 played professionally.

Keough is a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame and the Billiken Hall of Fame. Sports Illustrated named him one of the Top 50 Missouri Sports Figures of the 20th Century.

“His greatest legacy is his ability to give back to the game,” said Dan Flynn, secretary general of U.S. Soccer who played for Keough. “He set an example for how it should be done, how you played and how you went about your business off the field.

“What I really remember is his willingness to help other players, other coaches. That’s a tremendous attribute. That’s what stands out. He was a true gentleman.”


• Billiken Hall of Fame Members

On the cover and above: Harry Keough’s 1969 NCAA champions, one of five national titles Saint Louis University won under him. (Courtesy Saint Louis University Archives)

Monday: Saint Louis and Samford
Tuesday: Sam Houston State and Seattle
Wednesday: South Florida and Southeast Missouri State
Thursday:  Southeastern Louisiana and SIU-Edwardsville
Friday: SMU and Southern Mississippi

Mike Bambach

Mike Bambach is senior web producer for ASN.