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Former U.S. MNT Defender Ty Keough Remembers the Last Time USA Played France

The U.S. has only played France two times – both in 1979 – meaning only a handful of American players have ever suited up against Les Bleus. Only 21 to be exact. One of those lucky few is Ty Keough, a defender for the U.S. who earned eight career caps with the National Team between 1979 and 1980. Keough, whose father is soccer legend and 1950 World Cup team member Harry Keough, was a member of the team that traveled to Paris after the U.S. lost their home match against France at Giants Stadium earlier that year, 6-0. Though the U.S. also lost the away leg as well, 3-0, Keough said the score did not reflect USA’s fighting spirit. In this Q&A, Keough told what it was like to face one of the best teams in the world, and also one of the best players in the world in Michel Platini. You were among several U.S. players who did not face France at Giants Stadium, and there was a big difference between the roster that played in New Jersey and the group that traveled to Europe. Can you describe the experience of playing against France in Paris?
Ty Keough: “Number one, it was obviously a thrill to be in Paris, in their national stadium. I don’t know if it was full, but it was a nice crowd. It’s not a huge stadium – I think it only held 45,000 – but I’d imagine it was two-thirds to three-quarters full. The other thrill was to play against Michel Platini, who, at the time, was one of the top stars in the world. Going into the game, I had not played in the 6-0 loss in Giants Stadium, but I think in general, we were resolved not to be embarrassed. There had been some turnover, so it was an opportunity for players like myself, who were being put in, I guess, because of the not-so-successful outing in May. The game was a chance for us to maybe win some of those positions from guys who had played in the May game. This was an opportunity for this particular group of players to establish themselves as starters with the National Team and play in a fantastic venue against one of the top teams in the world, and perhaps the top player in the world at the time.” You are referring to Michel Platini as the top player in the world. What was it like to play against him?
TK: “It was 3-0 after about 25 or 28 minutes, and Platini already had a goal and two assists. His first one was a brilliantly-struck free kick from outside the box, bent over the wall. At the time, he was like David Beckham; probably one of the top three players in the world at bending free kicks. The other ones were brilliant passes that set up the other two goals. Then in a crunching tackle, Boris Bandov slid into Platini, and they had to take him off in about the 30th minute.” How did the game change after Platini was substituted?
TK: “Now granted, they had a 3-0 lead, but from then on we outplayed France. So much so, that in the last 15 minutes or so of the match the crowd was chanting ‘USA! USA!’ in French. They saw that we were hustling and fighting and battling. We had at least one ball cleared off the line, which a couple of my teammates who were farther up the field – I was playing as a last defender – said it did cross the line. I can’t say as I was too far from it, but the fans were entertained by the fact that we didn’t quit. We created a bunch of chances, and the game changed when Platini left. Maybe they made a couple substitutions, but we were actually the better team for the last 60 minutes. But the three goals that [Platini] created held up. A 3-1 result would have looked a little more respectable. We felt pretty good about [our performance], particularly with the crowd’s response. Part of it, they were razzing their own team for not getting more goals, I guess, but then I think they did really enjoy the fact that we gave it everything we had and tried to fight back and actually were playing more attractive soccer in the later stages of the game than the French team.” The team did not get much training before the 6-0 loss to France in May. Did you have more time to train before this match?
TK: “I was on two tours to Europe; one was in ’79, the next one was in ’80, and they were quite similar in that we did spend probably five or six days training. In 1979, we went to Bermuda first before we went to Europe. Then of course there was a game against Bermuda as well, before we went over to France. I would say we had five or six days. We had the game in Bermuda first, which helped us come to France and put on a more respectable performance. We also had a victory in Hungary on that same trip. We had some decent results, mainly due to the experience we had garnered in the NASL.”