Hall of Famer Bob Kehoe, who was the first American-born coach in the NASL and later coached the USA in 1974 World Cup qualifying, died Monday at the age of 89. He was synonymous with soccer in St. Louis, where he played and coached and served as a commentator.
Kehoe played soccer and baseball at St. Louis University High and signed with the baseball Phillies out of high school.
He never made it to the major leagues and returned to St. Louis, where he played soccer for Kutis.
He played in all four games for the USA against Mexico and Honduras in its 1966 World
Cup qualifying campaign and later coached the St. Louis Stars in the NASL in 1969 and 1970. Keno's Stars included future Hall of Famers Pat McBride and Willy Roy.
He took charge of the USA for the 1974 World Cup qualifying campaign, which lasted all of four games in 1972. A 3-2 loss to Canada in St. John, Newfoundland, and 2-2 tie in Baltimore
basically knocked the USA out of contention. Losses to Mexico (3-1 in Mexico and 2-1 in Los Angeles) left the USA with one point in four games. The only time the USA did worse in World Cup qualifying
was in 1957 when it lost all four games.
Organizational problems were common. Money spent on a training camp in the Adirondacks was a waste as most of the players called in for the
qualifiers were replaced by players from the NASL, including seven from the Stars. When the team arrived in St. John, the hotel it booked had no rooms.
Before the Mexico game in Los
Angeles, Dieter Ficken, who later became the LIU and Columbia head coach, spotted a player in the stands he recognized from the German-American League. Ficken went over and asked Slobodan
Djordjevic if he wanted to play and sure enough Djordjevic earned his first and only cap for the USA.
Kehoe worked as a policeman and fireman and got a college degree in his 40s,
later teaching at Granite City North High, where one of the players on his soccer team was Steve Trittschuh, who played for the USA in the 1990 World Cup.
Kehoe was involved in
coaching with the Busch Soccer Club, one of the first big youth clubs in St. Louis. It was later known as the St. Louis Soccer Club, which merged with Scott Gallagher Soccer Club and Metro United
Soccer Club in 2007 to become St. Louis Scott Gallagher, which sponsors two Development Academy programs.
Besides the National Soccer Hall of Fame, Kehoe was inducted into the St. Louis
Soccer Hall of Fame and St. Louis Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame as well as the Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
“Somehow, Bob’s life always seemed
to come back to soccer,” his wife Jane, who survives him, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Quoting Bob Kehoe (as told to Pete
“Soccer is the world’s worst sport for instant experts. You get a mom or a dad who see one half of their 5-year-old’s game and all of a sudden,
they know everything about it. But soccer is always evolving, always changing. I learn something new about it every single day. Anyone who tell you they know all there is to know about soccer –
or anything else, for that matter, is lying to himself.”