This American Has Had A Crazier Career Than Freddy Adu
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In an age when almost every USMNT-eligible soccer player is intensely analyzed, scrutinized and often idealized, one American has gone more or less unnoticed throughout a lengthy, still-ongoing career that included starting for Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. California-born Paul Rachubka has played for 17 different clubs in 17 years, but who the heck is he?
Paul Rachubka was born in San Luis Obispo, California, hometown of Zac Efron, Chris Pontius and Heidi Cruz, wife of Zodiac killer Texas senator Ted Cruz. Since joining Manchester United at the age of 16, his career has been every bit as wild as Freddy Adu’s, but without any of the hype. His career shows no signs of ending and Rachubka currently plays for Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League, having started in the club's first sixmatches this season.
Throughout his winding, some would say chaotic career, Rachubka has changed clubs an astonishing 33 times, which makes Adu’s career look tame in comparison. Remarkably, outside of one match for Antwerp in the Belgian Jupiler Pro League, prior to his stint in India he had never played outside of Britain. Of all his transfers, only one (his first) included a transfer fee, with the others being free transfers.
Rachubka moved to England at a relatively early age and was eligible to represent England internationally, which he did — four times at the U16 level and once apiece with the U18 and U20 squads. Because he never made a senior international appearance, he’s still eligible for both the USMNT and England. Rachubka became a member of the Manchester United youth team in 1997 and appeared for the first team in the Club World Cup with a seven-minute cameo against South Melbourne in 2000. He struggled to make an impact at Ferguson’s side, leading to his first loan spell, at the aforementioned Antwerp side with which he made one appearance.
Upon returning to England, Rachubka was immediately loaned out to Oldham Athletic. After failing to impress Ferguson, Manchester United sold Rachubka to Charlton for $361,000 at the end of the Oldham loan, thus beginning a long road of bouncing around clubs like Lionel Messi bouncing off defenders. From the time Rachubka joined Charlton in July of 2003 to the time he returned joined Blackpool in July of 2007 after a loan from Huddersfield, the goalie played with seven different teams in four years.
Finally, after joining Blackpool, Rachubka had some semblance of normalcy. He made 127 appearances for the club, registering 37 clean sheets — not a bad record. But when his contract was up in 2011, off Rachubka went, this time to Leeds United, where he began another whirlwind tour of England, going on loan three times with three new clubs.
When Rachubka was with Leeds, he did not perform well. He allowed sloppy goals in his first four matches before a horrendous showing against his former club Blackpool, when he was taken off at halftime with his team down 3-0 thanks to some less-than-stellar goalkeeping. (That’s a euphemism; he was shit.)
Contrary to the video above, Rachubka did not die then. After his contract with Leeds was done (and he allowed nine goals in seven appearances), he joined, in succession, Oldham, Crewe Alexandra, Bolton, Bury FC and, finally, in August of 2017, Kerala Blasters. (I think we can all agree Kerala Blasters is the best-named club of any for which he played.)
The career of Paul Rachubka remarkably continues after 17 clubs in 17 years. He recently said he moved to India because he sees it as an up-and-coming soccer nation, though the cynic would suggest it’s because they actually offered him playing time unlike in England, where he has made more than 20 league appearances twice since 2010.
Rachubka has never received consistent playing time throughout his career, making 335 appearances in 17 years, or about 20 matches per season. It’s no surprise he never garnered much interest from the country of his birth, never mind his adopted country of England.
Whether or not that’s a better life arc than that of Freddy Adu is debatable. The Ghanaian-born American made 226 appearances for 12 different clubs over 12 seasons (a remarkably similar number of matches and clubs per year), but because he played for the U.S. and was overhyped, many, including us, have derided his career.
It's hard to say if Rachubka was better or worse off for moving to England and joining Manchester United at a young age. He was at United during a period when the club was desperate for a goalie, but he couldn’t fill the void. He wasn’t good enough for the Premier League, struggled at times in the English League Championship and made most of his appearances in League One, resulting in a journeyman career.
Paul Rachubka is no Freddy Adu, but at least he’s still playing — and at least few people know who he is.