The international career of a guy who scored one of the biggest goals in U.S. Soccer history began with a note.
In the midst of the U.S. MNT’s qualifying run for the 1990 FIFA World Cup, U.S. Soccer received a letter by way of Holland from a young attacker named Earnie Stewart.
The son of an American serviceman and Dutch mother, Stewart grew up attending English-language schools and playing American sports while living in Holland. It wasn’t until age 11 that he began attending a Dutch school and began playing soccer. Though a seemingly late age to begin the sport, especially growing up in Europe, Stewart’s athleticism helped him progress quickly and he signed his first professional contract with Eerste Divisie side VVV-Venlo in 1988.
Because most of Stewart’s upbringing came outside the United States, he was likely off the radar of the National Team program. Noticing a young U.S. side’s push to qualify for Italia ’90, Stewart sent his letter in haste to inform the Federation they had a young, eligible American plying his trade overseas, but the effort was for naught, at least for the World Cup.
As the U.S. team began to reconvene after the tournament, Stewart received his first call-up for a friendly against Poland in Warsaw on Oct. 10, 1990, but Peter Vermes’ brace and a goal from Bruce Murray kept the attacker on the bench in the 3-2 win.
When the U.S. returned to Europe two months later, Stewart was finally handed his debut, coming Dec. 19, 1990 against Portugal. The Dutch-born striker went the full 90 minutes in the 1-0 defeat in Porto.
At U.S. Cup ’93 two years later, Stewart began to blossom, setting up a goal in the team’s historic 2-0 win against England before scoring his first international goal in a 4-3 defeat to Germany. He would go on to start all four U.S. matches at World Cup ’94 and scored one of the biggest goals in American soccer history to ensure a 2-1 victory against Colombia and the first U.S. World Cup win since 1950.
Consistently playing strong, attacking soccer for his clubs in Holland, Stewart would prove a reliable veteran for the U.S. MNT, going on to play in two more FIFA World Cups and representing the United States with a pride and distinction. Coincidentally, he captained the side against the same nation he began his international career when he led the U.S. against Portugal in their shocking 3-2 victory to open the 2002 World Cup.
Always one to answer the call of his country, Stewart’s 101 caps make him one of 16 players to pass the century mark for the U.S., an impressive feat when you consider he had a well-known fear of flying. After finishing off his club career with D.C. United and a short return to VVV-Venlo, Stewart went into a club management role. First with Venlo, then with another former club, NAC Breda and finally AZ Alkmaar.
After much success in Holland, on Stewart charted a new course, accepting the role of Sporting Director with the Philadelphia Union, with his duties beginning in the new year.