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Briana Scurry: The First African-American Woman in the National Soccer Hall of Fame

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Before Hope Solo, who was considered to be one of the best goalkeepers America produced, there was Briana Scurry. She was a pioneer in many ways and those who latched on women’s football in the 1990s were used to seeing her on the starting lineup. Scurry was one of the first African American football players in the game. 

She was part of the team that won America’s first Olympic gold medal and was the first African American and female goalkeeper to be listed in the National Soccer Hall of Fame. This article looks at her illustrious career. 

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Briana Scurry’s Early Life

Scurry was always an athletic person. Throughout her schooling, she participated in different sports – basketball, hockey, softball, track & field and football. She was the best athlete in her school, Anoka High School, where she was a goalkeeper. 

Scurry ended up in the position because other people didn’t want it. She embraced it more when she realized the importance of the position in the game. 

The goalkeeper played a crucial role in the school’s championship win. This won her the best female athlete of the school and Minnesota’s best female athlete. So good was she that 70 universities reportedly scouted her, 55 of which wanted her to play soccer for them.

The budding player settled for the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she established herself as an exciting prospect for club and country. By the end of her college career, Scurry had 37 clean sheets, named the College Goalkeeper of the Year and the National Goalkeeper of the Year.

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Professional Career

A look at Briana Scurry’s career. Video Credit: PBS News Hour

After Briana Scurry’s outstanding college career, she joined the Women’s Soccer United Association (WSCA) and played for the Atlanta Beat. The league existed for three seasons (2001-2003), during which Scurry was the first-choice goalkeeper for Atlanta.  

In the league’s final year, she won the Goalkeeper of the Year award. A few years later, Scurry was a founding member of the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) and played for the Washington Freedom

A lack of a stable professional environment limited her club career. Unfortunately, the goalkeeper didn’t play long enough to make it to the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the professional women’s soccer league that began in 2012.

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International Level

Scurry enjoyed some of the best moments in the United States jersey. She played for the team between 1994 and 2008, during which she made 173 appearances. The footballer was part of the team that played in the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. 

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She debuted in 1994 and won the first gold medal Olympics with the team in Atlanta in 1996. In 1999, Scurry started all the games and only let in three goals. She saved a decisive penalty to deny China a chance of winning the tournament. 

The USA won its second World Cup trophy. Scurry retained her starting position during the 2003 and 2004 World Cup and Olympics. 

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End of the Road

Briana Scurry talks about ending her career. Video Credit: BrainLine

By 2005, Hope Solo emerged on the scene and former U.S. coach Greg Ryan alternated the two. At one time, many opined that Scurry’s best days were beyond her. 

After conceding four goals against Brazil in the 2007 World Cup, Solo said she would have saved the goals, a comment many found disrespectful toward the veteran. 

The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) decided not to renew Greg Ryan’s contract after 2007. When Pia Sundhage came in, she preferred Hope Solo and didn’t include Scurry in her 2008 Olympic roster. The veteran goalkeeper played her final game against the Korean Republic.  

Briana Scurry retired after years of service to her club and country, due to a brain injury. She used her experience to advocate for concussion awareness. 

After retirement, Scurry is still involved in the sport. She’s worked as a commentator for ESPN and CBS Sports. She’s also been involved in administration, having been appointed the general manager of Magic Jack in 2011 and the first assistant coach for the Washington Spirit.

Brianna Scurry’s impact on women’s soccer lives on. Although goalkeeping has evolved and improved, her ability between the sticks was commendable. She played at the highest level and could always be counted on in big moments. 

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