By Neil W. Blackmon, Writing From Atlanta
Part Two. Straight to the Winners, shall we?
Tony Meola Award (Most Outstanding American Goalkeeper): Tim Howard
Perhaps it was Winston Churchill who suggested a unanimous vote is the first step of fascism. We’re not certain if that is the case but it sounds right. We do know that there is an unwritten rule in professional baseball worth noting before we discuss Tim Howard’s unanimous selection in this category. The “rule” pertains to Hall of Fame voting, and it basically is this—no player should ever be inducted into the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame (quite easily the most difficult Hall of Fame to make it into) unanimously. For perspective, Tom Seaver is the closest—he was present on 98.9 percent of ballots in his first attempt. The great Babe Ruth appeared on about 96 percent of the ballots. Cal Ripken Jr. is highest among hitters, at 98.5, for those curious. Beyond that—it isn’t close. That makes Tim Howard’s accomplishment here the stuff of legends. Even among readers, he was a near unanimous selection—a couple of diehard fans of a club nestled in the Rocky Mountains prevented a complete whitewash. Howard’s Everton campaign this year has been a bit below his traditionally lofty standards, and he did concede a somewhat soft goal in the World Cup against Ghana—but he’s also kept the Yanks and his club in enough games to more than make those incidents aberration. His performances this year against England for country and Manchester City for club are the stuff dreams are made of and he is the only reason Everton managed a 3-3 draw against Manchester United—most goalies would have lost 7-3 that day given the Toffees aversion to defending that afternoon. And, as Dru Boyer reminds us, he is responsible for “the greatest outlet pass in the history of US Soccer.”
He is still probably the best all-around American soccer player in the world, a top ten, if not five, goalkeeper in the universe and he will have to be immense for the US to recapture the Gold Cup this summer. In all likelihood and with all due respect to legendary Meola– this award will bear Timmy’s name once he walks away from the game.
Writer’s Vote: Howard 8
Reader’s Tally: Howard 43, Friedel 2, Rimando 2.
Paul Caligiuri Award (Best Goal Scored By An American Soccer Player, for Club or Country): Landon Donovan vs. Algeria
Clint Dempsey’s surgical technique against Juventus, winner of the BBC’s Sporting Moment of the Year, wins handily in any other year. But this wasn’t any year. It was a World Cup year. Just watch it again, enjoy the gift of John Harkes being without words, and let Ian Darke explain. And after that—before you get to carried away about Deuce’s memorable Juve strike—remember how much it meant. To Everyone. Everywhere.
Writer’s Vote: Donovan vs. Algeria 4.5, Dempsey vs. Juventus 3, Landon vs. Slovenia 0.5
Reader’s Tally: Landon vs. Algeria 25, Dempsey vs. Juventus 13, Agudelo vs. South Africa 2, Landon vs. Slovenia 2
American Maradona (Best US Player 23 Years Old or Younger): MB 90
Razor-thin and to some extent we think it is because readers weren’t completely certain about ages. Heck—one of our own writers voted for Stu Holden initially before changing his vote when we told him Holden was beyond the age bracketed for selection. One look at our winner, and the narrow margin by which he won, and you understand how that must have been an issue. MB 90 is the poster boy for everything that is exciting about US Soccer and its future. For all the promising young stars on the horizon—and there are a great many of them—MB 90 has been around so long it is hard to even think of the USMNT without him. At 23, he’s accomplished what many players hope to in an entire career, and we’re confident with his move to Aston Villa today and after the clinic he put on in South Africa, this is only the beginning. What we need out of MB 90 now—clean up the little (and that’s all they are) imperfections in your game, young man. Distribute the ball more consistently. Lose your temper less. Use that tall frame better on set pieces. He’s only going to get better. That’s the frightening part.
Writer’s Vote: MB 90 3, Eric Lichaj 3, Jozy Altidore 1, Omar Gonzalez 1
Reader’s Tally: MB 90 18, Eric Lichaj 15, Jozy Altidore 13, Juan Agudelo 12, Freddy Adu 2
Derek Zoolander Award (Most Really, Really, Really Good Looking US Soccer Player): Carlos Bocanegra
There’s more to life than being really, really, really good looking. We’re certain Carlos Bocanegra knows that, since he’s you know, captain of the US Men’s National Team and a mainstay at his French club and all. We’re just glad all the women voted (notice the vote spike for this award!!) so the writer votes were mostly canceled out.
Jon Levy courageously took a stand for Boca: “Carlos Bocanegra, no question about it. Here’s my test: When a girl at a bar or wherever you happen to be cites a lack of hunky players as a reason for not getting more into U.S. Soccer, who do you Google image search on your cell phone? I go Boca, and I’m batting one thousand.”
Writer’s Vote: Bocanegra 2, Alex Morgan 2, Hope Solo 1, US Women’s National Team 1, Abstain from Voting 2
Reader’s Tally: Carlos Bocanegra 23, Benny Feilhaber 18, Gooch 16, Stu Holden 13, Heath Pearce 6, Eric Lichaj 6, Alex Morgan 6, Hope Solo 6, Brian Ching 5, Heather Mitts 4
THE BRIAN McBRIDE MEMORIAL TROPHY FOR THE MOST OUTSTANDING UNITED STATES SOCCER PLAYER:
The reader’s vote was a tie, despite being the most voted on of all our awards. The writer’s vote—another draw. Despite the disappointment against Ghana and the brutal politics of Qatar 2022, it is safe to say 2010 was a banner year for US Soccer, both at the international level and with regard to the progress made at the club level. Our friends at A Football Report cast a ballot and we let them break the tie—but suffice it to say the year would not have been as special without Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey. Donovan’s year was stunning—a successful MLS season, a brilliant loan stint at Everton, a massive World Cup where he became the leader we all dreamed he would be right in front of our eyes. Meanwhile, Deuce matched him step for step. The England goal, the blood and guts performances against Algeria and Ghana. The BBC Sporting Moment of the Year goal against Juventus to send Fulham to a European final. A break out season where Dempsey went from nice player in the world’s greatest league to one of the elite players in the world’s most elite league. He’s absolutely in the conversation for Best Player Not Named Gareth Bale Not On A Big Four side, and his manager Mark Hughes might place him at the front of that list if you press him. You couldn’t really go wrong either way—both players became household names across the globe this season—just Landon did in more American households.
We’ll let The Shin Guardian guys explain how close this was: “Supremely tough decision here. Cutting to the chase, Clint Dempsey helped lead his team to the Europa Cup final AND was neck-and-neck with Landon Donovan for the best performance in South Africa.
In the final game of that World Cup, Dempsey rose to the occasion, earning the penalty that allowed Landon to knock home the temporarily-tying goal against Ghana.
If Dempsey is my winner, Donovan is right there next to him.
We at The Yanks Are Coming are very proud of this award and hope it becomes a legacy of our blog. We’re excited to send the plaque to London and Craven Cottage with Clint’s name the first engraved on it. In a way, it is fitting that a current Fulham player receive the award named for Brian McBride, who embodied competitive excellence for both the London club and for his country, for nearly a decade. Congratulations Clint!!
Writer’s Vote: Deuce 4, Donovan 4
Reader’s Vote: Landon Donovan 34, Clint Dempsey 34, Tim Howard 12, Stu Holden 8
This is part Two of The 2010 Yanks Are Coming US Soccer Awards. Neil W. Blackmon is Editor-In-Chief and Co-Founder of The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter at @nwb_usmnt.