It seems at the moment that US players are the flavour of the month in the Bundesliga with many top clubs employing talented young Americans in their line-ups. Christian Pulisic at Dortmund, Weston McKennie at Schalke, Fabian Johnson at Mönchengladbach and Bobby Wood over at Hamburg are just a few that spring to mind.
Going back a few years we had the likes of Landon Donovan and Thomas Dooley flying the flag for US soccer over in Germany’s top flight division. But few people will recall the first-ever American to grace the Bundesliga and you have to go back to only the second Bundesliga season to find him.
Take a look at the interesting career of Andy Mate.
Andy? Or is that Andreas? Well, neither. You see Andras Mate was born in Budapest, Hungary in March 1940, but following the events of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 he moved with his family to the United States.
In Hungary Mate had been a talented footballer and appeared for Budapest side Upjest Dozsa and had even been selected for his national team’s youth side. On arriving in New York he, like many refugees from his homeland, began to play for New York Hungaria in the German-American Soccer League.
At the time many top European sides would tour America and as a player just out of his teens Mate was selected to play for All-Star teams against German sides such as Schalke, Eintracht Frankfurt and 1860 Munich.
A striker, Mate started to make quite a name for himself and it was rumoured he was bound to play in Europe, but strangely he ended up in South America playing for Deportivo Cali in Colombia. By 1964 though he was back in New York with Hungaria and scored the winning goal for an American All-Star team that beat Hamburg at Downing Stadium. He also won his first (and only) international cap for the United States in the hugely forgettable 10-0 loss to England.
Over in Germany, the Bundesliga was still in its very early days and professionalism meant that clubs could start to attract overseas talent. Hamburg beat the likes of Schalke to sign Andy Mate from New York Hungaria ready for the start of the 1964-65 season.
The problem for Mate was that the legendary Uwe Seeler was the main man in attack for the Rothosen and he was only ever a back-up and even then he was behind a number of others in the pecking order. He made his Bundesliga debut on matchday 4 away at Borussia Neunkirchen and scored the following week on his home debut against Meidericher SV.
He was limited to four further appearances scoring once more against VfB Stuttgart as HSV finished a disappointing 11th. It was to be his only season in the Bundesliga and he returned to the States where professional soccer was just beginning to become a reality.
Mate later starred for both Philadelphia Spartans and the New York Generals before being signed to the New York Cosmos in 1971 for their inaugural NASL season. Hungarian-born but a converted New Yorker, he will go down as the forerunner of the US talent we see today gracing the Bundesliga.
Andy Mate passed away in 2012 at the age of 72. For more on Americans who played in the Bundesliga, click here
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