Legendary U.S. national team goalkeeper Frank Borghi dies at 89

Publish date:

The man between the sticks for one of the biggest upsets in the history of soccer has passed away. The U.S. Soccer Federation announced today that Frank Borghi, the goalkeeper that kept a clean sheet against a powerful England team in the United States' 1-0 victory at the 1950 World Cup, has died at age 89. 

Borghi was among a pioneering group of players that embraced the game at a time when the United States lagged far behind the rest of the world. Originally a minor league baseball player, Borghi turned to soccer as a way to stay fit in the winter, but proved so naturally talented as a goalkeeper that he was son called up to the national team in 1949. 

Along with fellow St. Louis natives Gino Pariani, Charley Colombo, Harry Keough, and Frank Wallace, Borghi helped form the foundation of the United States' squad for the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. That team barely resembled the U.S. national team we know today -- most of the players were part-time (Borghi worked as a hearse driver), and what's more, the team originally didn't even qualify for the tournament.

However, due to the withdrawals of several other teams from the World Cup (due to either political concerns, travel expenses, a preference to focus on the Olympics, or some combination of those three), the United States was invited to participate. Most expected them to lose all three games, against England, Spain, and Chile, by heavy margins. 

Instead, after a 3-1 loss to Spain, the United States shocked the world. Thanks in part to a flurry of saves from Borghi, the United States held an England side widely tipped to win the tournament at bay, while Joe Gaetjens scored the only goal in front of just over 10,000 in Belo Horizonte. 

Subsequently, Borghi was inducted to the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame along with the rest of the 1950 team, ensuring a legacy that isn't readily forgotten. 

With Borghi's passing, Walter Bahr remains the only surviving member of the 1950 World Cup team.