Looby-Murphy-Zerhusen: A Different Triple-Edged Sword

They were the “other” Triple-Edged Sword.

That title has been applied most famously to three great goalscorers from the 1991 United States women’s team, which was honored on Oct. 8, 2001 with the Gold Medal of the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

That other Triple-Edged Sword was remembered at the Hall of Fame on that same day, when Bill Looby was inducted into the Hall of Fame, for Looby was part of an earlier trio that merits this title as well.

The title was coined in 1991 and was never applied to Looby, Al Zerhusen and Ed Murphy, but they probably were the most prolific trio of goalscorers ever to appear on the field at the same time for the United States men. All three are in the Hall of Fame. Zerhusen was inducted in 1978 and Murphy in 1998.

Looby, Murphy and Zerhusen won a combined total of 34 full international caps for the United States. They only played in the same game for the full national team once, however, against England in 1959, and their greatest goalscoring feats for the United States came elsewhere.

All three remained amateur well into their playing careers (not that there was all that much money to be made in American soccer in their day anyway). They played together for the United States in the 1956 Olympic Games in Australia, as well as the long Asian tour that preceded those games, in the 1959 Pan-American Games in Chicago, and in quaIifying for the 1960 Olympic Games.

Those 1959 Pan-Am Games were the pinnacle, both for the Looby-Murphy-Zerhusen combination and for American soccer in that era. The United States team won the bronze medal in that competition, its only Pan-Am Games medal prior to 1991, when it won the Pan-Am title. Besides Zerhuscn and Murphy, three other members of that United States team are in the Hall of Fame. They are Alex Ely, George Brown and Willy Schaller.

The seven-team field in the 1959 Pan-Am soccer competition was arranged as a round robin, with each team playing each of the others and the final standings determining the medal-winners. The United States team won four of its six games, which were played at Chicago’s Hanson Stadium, and finished third in the standings. The Triple-Edged Sword of Zerhusen, Murphy and Looby combined for 24 goals in those six games, 10 for Zerhuscn, eight for Murphy and six for Looby. The three famous goalscorers of the 1991 women’s team, Michelle Akers, April Heinrichs and Carin Jennings, combined for 20 goals in six games in the 1991 World Cup finals.

The highlight of those Pan-Am Games, at least from an American standpoint, was a 5-3 victory over Brazil on Aug. 31, 1959. This was not the Brazilian powerhouse of Pele, Garrincha, Didi, etc., that had won the World Cup the year before, but it still was a strong team. Murphy had three goals in the American victory, and Zerhusen had two. Zerhusen’s biggest outburst was four goals against Haiti in the United States’ second game. Looby never had a hat trick, but he twice scored two goals, against Haiti and against Cuba in the United States’ third game.

This was an amateur competition, and officially, this was not the United States’ full national team, but it was virtually indistinguishable from the full team. And three of the United States’ six opponents, Haiti, Cuba and Costa Rica, were able to field their full national teams in this competition, because soccer was still amateur in those countries. These three games have never been counted as having been full internationals, but unofficially, they amount to the same thing. Looby, Murphy and Zerhusen combined for 14 goals in those three games.

The United States wrapped up its bronze medal with a 4-2 victory over Mexico in its final game on Sept. 5. Murphy scored two goals in that game, and Zerhusen and Looby each had one. That was the third consecutive game in which each of the three had hit the back of the net.

Looby, Murphy and Zerhusen had begun their attacking partnership three years before, en route to the Olympic Games in Australia. In preparation for those Olympics, the first ever held outside Europe or North America, the United States Olympic Committee organized a long Far Eastern tour. The United States played nine games, in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. In those nine games, Zerhusen scored 17 goals. For this Triple-Edged Sword, the highlight probably was a pair of games against Japanese all-star teams in Tokyo on Oct. 25 and Osaka on Oct. 27. In those two games, Zerhusen scored four goals, Looby had four and Murphy had two. All three played in the United States’ lone game in the 1956 Olympics, a 9-1 loss to Yugoslavia in Melbourne on Nov. 28. Zerhusen had the United States goal.

The last time the three stepped on the field together in United States uniforms was on Nov. 22, 1959, in an Olympic qualifying game against Mexico in Los Angeles. Murphy scored the only American goal of a 1-1 tie. Looby had played his last game for the full U.S. national team earlier in 1959, and Zerhusen finished his national-team career in 1965. Murphy, who had played his first full international in 1955, went on to play for the United States until 1969, and is one of only three men who have played for the United States in four different World Cups (the others are Paul Caligiuri and Tab Ramos). Murphy played for the United States in the qualifying rounds of the 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970 World Cups.

All three men had strong careers with their club teams. Looby, a native of St. Louis, was a mainstay of the Kutis powerhouse from that city that won the National Amateur Cup six consecutive times between 1956 and ‘61, and also won the U.S. Open Cup in 1957. Zerhusen, who was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Germany, starred for Los Angeles teams for years in the 1950s and ‘60s. He led the Greater Los Angeles Soccer League in scoring 13 times and was captain of the Los Angeles Kickers teams that won the U.S. Open Cup in 1958 and 1964. Murphy, who was born in Scotland, played for Maroons and Slovak during his many years in the National Soccer League of Chicago, and then played one season for Chicago Mustangs in the North American Soccer League.

There have been plenty of great goalscorers in American soccer history: Archie Stark, Billy Gonsalves, Hugo Perez, Eric Wynalda, Brian McBride. But there probably has never been another trio all at the same time to match~ Bill Looby, Ed Murphy and Al Zerhusen.

A condensed version of this article originally appeared in The Hall of Famer, the newsletter of the National Soccer Hall of Fame.