While the United States is still fighting for respect as a footballing nation, one position in which top-class players have consistently been produced is at goalkeeper.
From its earliest days and certainly into the modern era, the United States men’s national team has frequently relied on its goalkeepers to keep them in games when their talent on the rest of the field was simply overmatched.
Here are eight of the best ever to stand in between the pipes for the USMNT.
Although his international career has often been overshadowed by Tim Howard, Brad Guzan is the type of backup that most teams would love to have as their starter.
Even as the U.S.’ second-choice keeper, Guzan has earned 22 caps for the USMNT and was a key part of the point the U.S. earned at Estadio Azteca last month in World Cup qualifying.
Dino Vanole is a forgotten hero for the USMNT, having helped the team qualify for the 1988 Olympic tournament and the 1990 World Cup. Qualification for the ’88 Olympics helped the United States secure the bid for the 1994 World Cup and the 1990 World Cup was the U.S.’ first appearance in the tournament since 1950.
Vanole’s most iconic moment came in 1989 when he stopped a Costa Rican penalty kick in stoppage time to help the U.S. to a 1-0 win and eventual World Cup qualification.
Although Vanole only earned 14 caps for the U.S., eventually losing his place in goal to Tony Meola for the 1990 World Cup, Vanole’s presence in the net, as well as his fiery patriotism, helped the United States emerge from the dark of the footballing world.
Jimmy Douglas played with the USMNT in the 1924 Olympics and the 1930 World Cup—at which the United States finished third, the highest finish of any CONCACAF team ever in the World Cup.
Douglas played all three matches for the U.S. in the 1930 tournament, posting shutouts in 3-0 wins over both Belgium and Paraguay. Douglas’ shutout against Belgium is the first clean sheet in the history of the World Cup.
In total, Douglas finished with nine caps and was inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in 1953.
Frank Borghi manned the net for one of the biggest upsets in the history of the game, the U.S.’ 1-0 win over heavily favored England at the 1950 World Cup.
The English team, made up of experienced professional footballers, was expected to win the game easily with The Daily Express reportedly writing that "It would be fair to give them (the U.S.) three goals of a start."
The U.S. team, on the other hand, was full of amateurs. Borghi drove a hearse for his uncle’s funeral parlor, and the U.S.’ goalscorer in the game, Joe Gaetjens, was working as a dishwasher before being added to the roster.
Sometimes branded the “Miracle on Grass,” Borghi is credited with making numerous big saves in the match, as the U.S. claimed the win.
The first of the modern line of top-class U.S. goalkeepers, Tony Meola manned the net for the U.S. in both the 1990 and 1994 World Cups and was on the roster for the 2002 World Cup.
In the 1994 World Cup, captaining the team, Meola became one of the team’s most notable stars, especially in the U.S.’ 2-1 win over Colombia. He also played well in the round of 16 against eventual champion Brazil, despite the U.S.’ 1-0 loss.
In total, Meola earned 100 caps for the USMNT.
Kasey Keller earned 102 caps in his international career and manned the net for the United States in the 1998 World Cup.
Keller’s most iconic moment came in the U.S.’ historic 1-0 win over Brazil in the 1998 Gold Cup, which caused Brazilian legend Romario to remark, “That is the best performance by a goalkeeper I have ever seen.”
Tim Howard has earned 85 caps for the USMNT and has been the team’s regular No. 1 since 2007.
In that time, Howard has been a key component of many of the team’s greatest wins, including the team’s 2-0 win over Spain at the 2009 Confederations Cup, the 1-0 win over Italy last February and the U.S.’ first win over Mexico at Estadio Azteca last August.
In the 2009 Confederations Cup, Howard won the Golden Glove award over Gianluigi Buffon, Iker Casillas and Julio Cesar.
Nicknamed “The Human Wall” for his performance in the 2002 World Cup, Brad Friedel earned 82 caps in his career for the USMNT.
Friedel saved two penalties in the 2002 World Cup, the first goalkeeper to ever do so, and was also in the net for the United States when it earned its first-ever point at the Estadio Azteca, a 0-0 draw in November 1997.
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