Soccer Made in Germany…. by Americans: A Mutual Relationship

by Gerry Wittmann

With the recent signings of former American collegiate players Paolo DelPiccolo by Eintracht Frankfurt and Parker Walsh to the Karlsruher SC first team, along with FC Augsburg inking MLS and Danish SuperLiga veteran Michael Parkhurst in December, the number of Americans playing professionally in Germany continues to grow.  There were already fifteen Americans earned their living in the top three leagues in Germany during the fall.  This number includes not only players born in the United States but also those born in Germany, sons of American servicemen and German mothers who learned their game in Germany but have played for the U.S. national teams, either at the youth or senior level, including such players as Schalke midfielder Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson and Danny Williams of Hoffenheim and Timothy Chandler of 1. FC Nürnberg.  German-born players also have a long history of earning paychecks in North America, both in the old NASL now in Major League Soccer.

Certainly the finest example of an American finding success in German football has been Hannover’s Steve Cherundolo,  Born in Rockford, Illinois and raised in San Diego, the University of Portland defender joined the 96ers in 1999.  Despite losing his father shortly after signing with Hannover and suffering a knee injury soon after establishing himself as a regular in 2. Bundesliga play, Cherundolo has shown the talent, perseverance and loyalty to play his entire professional career in Hannover, earning the captaincy of the team and helping them not only to promotion to first Bundesliga play but leading them to Europa League competition the last two years.  Popular in his adopted hometown, the “Mayor of Hannover” is the ultimate example, like Brian McBride and Claudio Reyna, of an American player finding success in Europe and taking a leadership role at a club overseas.

While England has always been seen as the ultimate destination for an American player wanting to prove himself overseas, Yanks Abroad currently lists 15 Americans playing professionally in England and 17 in Germany.  And while the appointment of former German international and national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann eighteen months ago certainly is a watershed moment in the footballing relationship between Germany and the United States, in fact Americans have been playing for German clubs for decades (see list below).

The Pioneers

One of the first German-Americans to earn an international cap for the United States was Horst Rick. Born in 1936, he played during the late 1950s-early 1960s for such teams as Fortuna Dusseldorf and Eintracht Braunschweig, but also played in the German-American Soccer League, a semi-professional outfit based in the New York/New Jersey area.  He earned his one and only U.S. cap in a 1964 match against England, in which the Americans were dispatched by a 10-0 score.  Andy Mate, born in Budapest, also earned his only U.S. cap in that 1964 loss to England.  He also played in the German-American Soccer League in the 1960s and spent a year with Hamburg in the Bundesliga.  He earned play in the CONCACAF Challenge Cup while with New York Hungarica, scoring three goals, and was an original member of the NASL’s New York Cosmos in 1971 ahead of the mid-1970s arrival of such luminaries as Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia and Carlos Alberto.

The NASL Era

Between 1966 and 1984, West German international stars such as Franz BeckenbauerGerd Müller and Bernd Holzenbein, along with talented Germans such as Hubert Birkenmeier, Klaus Toppmöller, Helmut Kremers, Jürgen Röber, Wolfgang Sühnholz, Karl-Heinz Granitza and Willie Wrenger from German clubs found their way to the U.S. and Canada to play in the old NASL, along with coach Rudi Gutendorf.  (The NASL attracted talented players from around the world, including not only the afore-mentioned  stars of the Cosmos but players like George Best, Johan Cruyff, Gordon Banks and Bobby Moore among the many internationals attracted by big salaries paid by NASL teams).  One German-born player of that era, though, did earn a cap with USMNT.  Manfred Seissler, who came to the U.S. to play professionally in 1966, had played club football in Germany during the early 1960s with Hessen Kassel.  The forward, who scored 28 NASL goals between 1967 and 1973, earned his U.S. cap in a March, 1973 match against Poland.

German-born players whose families had emigrated to the U.S. also were part of the NASL talent mix.  Willy Roy, born in 1943 in Treuberg, came to the United States as a six-year old.  He earned 20 caps for the U.S. national team, scoring 10 goals, between 1965 and 1973 while playing in the NASL for the Chicago, Kansas City and St. Louis teams.  Orest Banach, born in Neu-Ulm of Ukrainian heritage, came to the U.S. as a youngster and, like Roy, attended high school in Illinois.  He was an NASL  goalkeeper who earned four caps in U.S. World Cup qualifiers between 1969-1972.  Neither, though, had the opportunity to play club football in Germany.

Miro Rys

Miro Rys

But the flow of players between Germany and the United States in that era was strictly one way, with one tragic exception.  Miro Rys was a Czech-born striker who also grew up and attended school in Illinois.  Following his high school graduation in 1976, he signed with the NASL’s Chicago Spurs, playing 19 matches and scoring four goals.  He debuted for the U.S. national team that year, scoring a goal in an October World Cup qualifier against Canada.  In 1977, after a few games with the NASL’s Los Angeles Aztecs, Rys had made enough of an impression to be signed by Hertha Berlin.  Tragically, he was killed in a car accident in October, 1977 while in Germany before ever having the chance to play for the Old Lady.  Today Rys is remembered with a Sportsmanship Award named in his honor given by the Illinois High School Soccer Association.

The Amercan Pioneers in Germany

The financial instability of NASL clubs, which tended to spend first and market second, led to the dissolution of the league in 1984 leaving a huge gap in professional soccer playing opportunities for Americans until the emergence of Major League Soccer more than a decade later.  Semi-pro leagues endured, but only the popular professional indoor soccer leagues gave Americans a chance to play for pay in North America.

Tom Kain was a star high school player in New Jersey who earned All-American honors at Duke University in the early 1980s along with being named the 1985 Hermann Trophy winner (awarded to the best college player in the U.S.).  He signed with German club 1. FC Union Solingen in the North Rhine-Westphalia region in 1986, becoming the first native American to earn a contract in Germany.  Although he never broke into the squad, Kain played several years of indoor soccer for the Kansas City Comets before retiring to work for Adidas.  He found great success in the corporate world and today is the Nike Global Director of Soccer Marketing.

Paul Caligiuri was another American pioneer in Germany.  Following his college career at UCLA, he signed with Hamburger SV in 19887.  Although unable to find first team play in the port city, Caligiuri found success playing for second division side SV Meppen, and later played at Hansa Rostock, where he was part of a East German Championship side in 1991, SC Freiburg and St. Pauli.  The Californian was an original member of MLS with the Columbus Crew and later played for the LA Galaxy, along with earning 110 U.S. caps.

Brent Goulet

Brent Goulet

Another American who paved the way for a later generation of U.S. players to find success in Germany was Brent Goulet.  Born in 1964 in North Dakota, the forward grew up in Tacoma, Washington.  He attended Warner Pacific College in Portland, where he scored 108 goals.  The prolific striker played briefly in England for AFC Bournemouth and Crewe Alexandria in the late 1980s, along with playing indoor footy for the MISL Tacoma Stars, before heading to Germany in 1990 to play for Oberliga side Bonner SC, where he scored 31 goals in two seasons.  His success led to a move to Tennis Borussia Berlin, where he netted 21 times in his first season with the club.  Goulet played for several other German clubs, and coached SV Elversburg from 2004 to 2008.  He earned eight U.S. caps and scored six goals for the Americans in the 1988 Olympics.

The 1990 FIFA World Cup, held in Italy, marked the first time the U.S. qualified for the tournament since 1950, and although the USMNT lost all three of its Group A World Cup matches against Italy, Austria and Czechoslovakia, the tournament marked the beginning of a new era for the USMNT.  Players on that 1990 U.S. squad included Caligiuri, John Doyle, Christopher Sullivan, Eric Wynalda, Eric Eichmann, Brian Bliss, Kasey Keller, Bruce Murray and Chris Henderson — all of whom played club football in Germany.

With the U.S. Soccer Federation winning the 1994 World Cup bid, a search of European rosters began to find players capable of bringing the national team prestige, and more importantly, victories.  That effort led to the discovery of German-American Thomas Dooley, an established Bundesliga player whose father was an American serviceman.  Born in Bechhofen, Dooley was eligible to play for the U.S. and made his national team debut in 1992, eventually captaining the squad and earning 81 caps, while having a successful club career both in the Bundesliga and later in MLS.  Dooley has also been involved in coaching with the USMNT. and recommended Schalke teammate and fellow German-American David Wagner for USMNT consideration in the mid 1990s.  Wagner, a striker, eventually earned eight U.S. caps between 1996 and 1998, playing in four World Cup qualifiers, after featuring for the German U-18 and U-21 teams.

The Modern Era

The U.S. has qualified for every World Cup tournament since 1990, becoming along with Mexico a dominant footballing nation in the CONCACAF region.  Successive generations of U.S. internationals have earned their wages in German football since those pioneers of the 1980s and 1990s, including such USMNT stars McBride and Reyna, both of whom played for VfL Wolfsburg, and attacking midfielder Landon Donovan, who struggled in two stints as a young player with Bayer Leverkusen before establishing himself in MLS, with Everton in the EPL, and starring for the national team.  .

But it hasn’t only been American international stars who have found success in German football.  Striker Matt Taylor, 31, has scored almost 40 league goals in Germany’s second and third divisions since joining TuS Koblenz in 2008, and earlier this season scored three goals in the DFB Pokal for SC Preußen Münster against Bundesliga side Werder Bremen.  Californian Joe Enochs holds the distinction of playing the most matches for club VfL Osnabrück in his career at the club, which began in 1996 and ended in 2008.  The midfielder briefly coached the club in 2011 and has a section of it’s home stadium named in his honor.  He also owns a sports bar in the city and in 2004 scored a Pokal goal against Bayern München in 2004 that was recognized as “Goal of the Month” by ARD.  Striker John van Buskirk was born in the steel mill town of Granite City, Illinois in 1972 and scored 63 goals in 272 matches for five different German clubs.  He captained Sportfreunde Siegen, where he played from 1999-2004.  Current BeIn Sports game analyst Ian Joy, a Scottish-American whose father played in the old NASL, is one of the few players to feature at both Hamburger SV and intense city rivals St. Pauli.

With established German talents such as Torsten Frings, Arne Friedrich, Frank Rost and Christian Tiffert coming to MLS in the last few years, and young Germans such as Fabian Kling playing American college soccer and featuring for the 2012 NASL regular season champion San Antonio Scorpions, the relationship between Americans playing professionally in Germany, along with Germans earning a paycheck in the States, begun decades ago, will only continue to grow.

Americans Who Have Played in Germany *

Agbossoumonde, Gale  2011-2012 Eintracht Frankfurt II
Agoos, Jeff 1994-1995 SV Wehen

Beasley, DaMarcus  2010-2011 Hannover
Berhalter, Gregg 2002-2009 Energie Cottbus, 1860 Munich
Bliss, Brian 1990-1996 Energie Cottbus,Chemnitzer FC, Carl Zeiss Jena
Boyd, Terrence  2010-2012 Hertha Berlin II, Borussia Dortmund II
Bradley, Michael 2008-2011 Borussia Monchengladbach
Brooks, John Anthony 2011 – Hertha Berlin II, Hertha Berlin
Buddle, Edson 2011-2012 FC Ingolstadt

Caligiuri, Paul 1987-1996 Hamburger SV, SV Meppen, Hansa Rostock, SC Freiburg,St. Pauli
Casey, Conor 2000-2006 Borussia Dortmund, Hannover, Karlsruher SC, Mainz
Chandler, Timothy 2008- Eintracht Frankfurt II, 1. FC Nurnberg II, 1. FC Nurnberg
Cherundolo, Steve 1999 – Hannover
Clark, Ricardo 2010-2012 Eintracht Frankfurt
Cooper, Kenny 2009-2011 1860 Munich

Deering, Chad 1990-1998 Werder Bremen, Schalke, Kickers Emden, VfLWolfsburg
DelPiccolo, Paolo 2013 – Eintracht Frankfurt II
Dooley, Thomas 1983-1997 FC Homborg, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke
Donovan, Landon 1999-2000, 2004-2005, 2009 Bayer Leverkusen II. Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich
Doyle, John 1993-1994 VfB Leipzig

Eichmann, Eric 1987-1988 Werder Bremen II
Enochs, Joe 1994-2008 St. Pauli, VfL Osnabrück

Feilhaber, Benny 2005-2007 Hamburger SV, Hamburger SV II

Gibbs, Cory 2001-2003 St. Pauli
Goulet, Brent 1990-2001 Bonner SC, Tennis Borussia Berlin, RW Oberhausen, Wupprtaler SC, SV Elversberg
Grenier, Josh 2003-2008 TuS Koblenz
Gyau, Joseph 2011- Hoffenheim II, St. Pauli

Hedjuk, Frankie 1996-2003 Bayer Leverkusen, Bayer Leverkusen II
Henderson, Chris 1994-1995 FSV Frankfurt
Hill. Kamani 2006-2009 VfL Wolfsburg

Ibsen, Zak 1993-1994 FC Saarbrucken II, VfL Bochum II

Jeffrey, Jared 2010 – Mainz II
Johnson, Fabian 2005 – 1860 Munich, VfL Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim
Jones, Jermaine 2000- Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayer Leverkusen. Schalke
Joy, Ian 2004-2007 Hamburger SV II, St. Pauli

Kain, Tom 1986-1987 1. FC Union Solingen
Kaveny, Kyle 2010-2011 SV Drochtersen/Assel, TSG Neustrelitz
Keller, Kasey 2005-2007 Borussia Monchengladbach
Kiesewetter, Jerome 2011- Hertha Berlin II, VfB Stuttgart II
Kirovski, Jovan 1996-1999 Borussia Dortmund, Fortuna Köln

Lancos, Chris 2006 1. FC Kaiserslautern II
Lapper, Mike 1994-1995 VfL Wolfsburg

Mate, Andy 1964-1965 Hamburger SV
Mathis, Clint 2004-2005 Hannover
Michael Mason 1994-2007 Hamburger SV, St. Pauli, FC Gütersloh 2000, Carl Zeiss Jena, VfR Aalen, SV Elversberg, KSV Hessen Kassel
McBride, Brian 1994-1995 VfL Wolfsburg
Merrit, Tim 2006-2007 FSV Oggersheim
Moore, Joe-Max 1994-1996 FC Saarbrucken, 1. FC Nurnberg
Morales, Alfredo 2008- Hertha Berlin/Hertha Berlin II

Parkhurst, Michael 2013- FC Augsburg
Pearce, Heath 2007-2009 Hansa Rostock
Purdy, Steve 2007-2008 1860 Munich II

Regis, David 1997-1998 Karlsruher SC
Reyna, Claudio 1994-1999 Bayer Leverkusen, VfL Wolfsburg
Rick, Horst 1958-1963 Fortuna Dusseldorf, Eintracht Braunschweig. SSV Reutlingen
Robles, Luis 2007-2012 1. FC Kaiserslautern, Karlsruher SC
Rys, Miro 1977 Hertha Berlin

Sanneh, Tony 1999-2004 Hertha Berlin, 1. FC Nurnberg
Seissler, Manfred 1961-1966 Hessen Kassel, 1. FC Pforzheim, Eintracht Trier
Sullivan, Christopher 1992-1993 Hertha Berlin

Taylor, Matt  2008 – TuS Koblenz, FSV Frankfurt, RW Ahlen, SC Paderborn 07, SC Preußen Münster
Twellman, Taylor 1999-2002 1860 Munich II

van Buskirk, John 1995-2006 KFC Uerdignen, LR Aalen, Sportfreunde Siegen, RW Erfurt, Kickers Emden

Wagner, David 1990-2004 Eintracht Frankfurt, Mainz, Schalke, FC Gütersloh 2000, SV Waldhof Mannheim, SV Darmstadt, Weinheim
Walsh, Parker 2009 – SV Eichede U-19, Karlsruher U-19, Karlsruher SC II, Karlsruher
Williams, Danny 2008- SC Freiburg, Hoffenheim
Wynalda, Eric 1992-1996  FC Saarbrucken, VfL Bochum
Wolff, Josh 2006-2008 1860 Munich
Woods, Bobby 2010 – 1860 Munich II, 1860 Munich
Wooten, Andrew 2008- VfR Wormalia Worms, 1. FC Kaiserslautern II, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, SV Sandhausen

Yelldell, David 2002 – Stuttgarter Kickers, TuS Koblenz, MSV Duisburg, Bayer Leverkusen

Zimmerman, Preston 2007-2008, 2010- Hamburger SV II, Mainz II, SV Darmstadt
Zizzo, Sal 2007-2010 Hannover, Hannover II

*  I don’t pretend that this is a complete list of Americans who have played professionally in Germany.  Please feel free to add a comment on any players who have escaped my attention and they will be gladly included on our list.  

Dvds of matches featured on the PBS Soccer Made in Germany are available here

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Author:Gerry Wittmann

Gerry is the founder and CEO of Bundesliga Fanatic LLC. Gerry is also a regular contributor to IMSoccer News and co-host of the IMS NASL podcast.
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