Saturday, January 19, 2008

Belo Horizonte

An important name and place for American Soccer and American Soccer Fans: Belo Horizonte, Brazil. On June 29, 1950, the United States faced England during the Group Stage of the 1950 World Cup. England clearly expected to this match against the U.S., a team that had lost just lost to Spain, 3-1, and decided to rest one of their best players, Stanley Matthews.

But England misjudged this American side made up of players cobbled together from the amateur and professional leagues of St. Louis and the North East, and in the 38th minute Joe Gaetjens, an immigrant from Haiti, headed the ball into the net, giving the U.S. a lead that England would fail to overcome, despite their desperate efforst to find the net.

The American squad responsible for one of the biggest upsets in World Cup History and one of the greatest victories in American Soccer History consisted of:

Frank Borghi (GK, 25, St. Louis)
Harry Keough (RB, 22, St. Louis)
Joe Maca (LB, 29, New York City)
Walter Bahr (LH, 23, Philadelphia)
Ed McIlvenny (RH, Captain, 25)
Charlie Colombo (CH, 30, St. Louis)
Frank "Pee Wee" Wallace (OR, 28, St. Louis)
Gino Pariani (IR, 22, St. Louis)
Joe Gaetjens (CF, 26, New York City)
John Souza (IL, 29, Massachusetts)
Ed Souza (OL, 28, Massachusetts)

So here's my question. Where do you view the role of Belo Horizonte in American Soccer History - was it the death rattle of the first golden age of American soccer or was it the birth of the first golden age of American soccer? To me it's an important milestone or watershed moment in American soccer history. It gave America a chance to show the world its game, as developed by immigrants and their children on American pitches. It helped to ensure that soccer would not die in America, breathing some new life into the American Soccer League. To me, nothing ended or started on that day, rather America made a huge mark on the international scene, giving the future a moment to build from.

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