The Portland Pilots men’s and women’s soccer programs are two of the most successful in the NCAA. The women have won two College Cups, while the men have reached the NCAA Tournament final four on multiple occasions. The Pilots’ teams have produced some outstanding professional players, with several going on to have fantastic careers at the club and international levels.
Here are the top 5 Portland Pilots players of all time.
5. Steve Cherundolo
Full-back Steve Cherundolo bombed up and down the flanks for the Portland Pilots for two seasons. Cherundolo’s stay with the Pilots wasn’t long, playing for the university from 1997 to 1998. He was voted the West Coast Conference’s Freshman of the Year after a stellar first season in Portland.
After two seasons with the Pilots, Cherundolo headed to German, where he joined Hannover 96 of the 2. Bundesliga. Cherundolo was just 19 years old when he made his Hannover debut on February 25, 1999. The step up in playing levels was extreme, but Cherundolo adjusted quickly.
In Hannover, Cherundolo became a club legend, playing 302 times for the Reds, a club record. He even earned the nickname “The Mayor of Hannover” due to his long-time service to the club.
Cherundolo called it a day in 2015 at the age of 35. Had it not been for chronic knee issues, the defender would have likely carried on playing. After hanging up his boots, Cherundolo moved into coaching. He coached various Hannover youth teams and later worked as an assistant to Tayfun Korkut at Stuttgart.
In 2021, Cherundolo joined USL Championship team, the Las Vegas Lights, as head coach for a season before becoming the manager of Los Angeles FC.
4. Noah Beck
Noah Beck is among the world’s biggest YouTubers and social media personalities. What some soccer fans may not realize is Beck was a member of the Portland Pilots men’s soccer program.
He only played one season for the Pilots, but Beck’s celebrity puts him on the list of Portland’s top 5 players of all time. Moreover, had Beck decided to stick with soccer, he could have become one of the best players produced by the Portland program. Beck also played for MLS club Real Salt Lake’s soccer academy.
The former Pilots midfielder gave up soccer in 2020, focusing on social media and YouTube, where he earns millions each year. Beck’s focus shifted to social media during the COVID-19 pandemic following the shutdown of the soccer season. It didn’t take long for his videos to go viral.
The former Pilots player was invited to play in the Soccer Aid 2022 and 2023 events in England due to his growing social media celebrity. In both games, Beck ran the show in midfield and turned heads, even David Beckham’s. It is unlikely that Beck will focus on soccer again, although it was reported that scouts were impressed by the midfielder in the Soccer Aid games.
3. Megan Rapinoe
Megan Rapinoe joined the Portland Pilots soccer program ahead of the 2005 National Championship winning season. She helped the team to an undefeated 32W-2D-0L record. That season saw her team up with university soccer legend Christine Sinclair to create a dream team.
The California native scored 15 goals and assisted 13 in 25 appearances in her first season. Unfortunately, Rapinoe only played 11 games in the following campaign due to suffering a knee injury. Before the injury, Rapinoe recorded ten goals and was amongst the NCAA’s top scorers.
Rapinoe’s junior season was much like the previous one. After just two appearances as a substitute, she suffered another season-ending knee injury. After two seasons of injury setbacks, Rapinoe returned for the 2008 season to help the Pilots win the West Coast Conference title. She was named the conference’s Player of the Year.
In 2009, Rapinoe entered the Women’s Professional Soccer collegiate draft. After being drafted by the Chicago Red Stars, Rapinoe began a nomadic period of her professional career, playing in the USA and Australia. In 2013, she joined OL Reign following the launch of the NWSL and has played in Seattle ever since.
Rapinoe made her senior national team debut in 2006. Since then, she has played 81 times for the USWNT, scoring 32 goals and assisting 20.
2. Christian Sinclair
Christian Sinclair is the most famous women’s player in Canadian soccer history. She is also among the best players to come out of the Portland Pilots women’s soccer program.
Sinclair became just the third player in NCAA history to win consecutive Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy awards in 2004 and 2005. The Hermann Trophy is given out to the best men’s and women’s collegiate soccer players. Only Mia Hamm and Cindy Parlow had achieved back-to-back wins previously.
Born in British Colombia, Sinclair joined the Pilots in 2001. In her four seasons in Portland, Sinclair scored 22 or more goals in each campaign. After a stellar sophomore season in 2022, in which she scored 26 goals in 21 appearances, Sinclair was redshirted to allow her to play in the 2003 World Cup for Canada.
She returned for the 2004 season, scoring 22 goals in 24 fixtures, earning the Hermann Trophy for the first time. However, it was Sinclair’s final season in Portland that solidified her legacy as a Pilot great. Sinclair bagged 39 goals and 10 assists in 25 appearances. She twice helped lead the Pilots to the NCAA Women’s National Championship (2002, 2005).
1. Kasey Keller
Kasey Keller arrived on the University of Portland campus in 1988. Standing 6ft 2in tall and possessing catlike reflexes, Keller was a victim of the United States’ lack of a professional soccer league at the time. Today, a goalkeeper of Keller’s standard would have been snapped up by an MLS or USL team before reaching university.
In his first season in Portland, the team won the West Coast Conference and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time. The Pilots reached the final four in that season’s NCAA Tournament, losing to eventual champions Indiana in the semifinals.
During Keller’s time at the University of Portland, he became the Pilots’ all-time leader in clean sheets with 43. In 1988, he posted a goals-against average of just 0.33 and, one year later, recorded a goals-against average of 0.40. In his senior season on campus, Keller won the Collegiate Goalkeeper of the Year award.
Keller led the Pilots to the NCAA Tournament in all four seasons in Portland. Three of those campaigns saw Keller earn a place on the All-American team. Keller’s outstanding play for the Pilots earned him a selection to the US Men’s National Team for the 1990 World Cup in Italy. English club Millwall signed Keller in 1992, and he made 175 appearances for the Lions before joining Leicester City.
Wherever Keller went, he was a fan favorite as he appeared for clubs, including Rayo Vallecano, Tottenham Hotspur, Borussia Monchengladbach, and Fulham. With his career winding down, Keller returned to the Pacific Northwest in 2009, signing for Seattle Sounders.
After winning three consecutive US Open Cups with the Sounders, Keller retired in 2011. The following year, the West Coast Conference inducted the goalkeeper into its Hall of Honor. In 2016, the University of Portland inducted Keller into its Hall of Fame.