Part I of the 2nd Annual Yanks Are Coming Best of US Soccer Awards featured 2011’s US Soccer disappointments, frustrations, and best hairdo. The second portion of our awards focuses on the promise of youth, goalkeepers, and the goals scored in what was a thrilling year in American soccer. Again, a list of the finalists can be viewed by clicking on this link. Thanks to all who voted.
The Meola Keller Award (Best American Goalkeeper)
2010 Winner: Tim Howard
The second 2010 winner to retain his award, Tim Howard was one of the busiest men in US soccer in 2011. In a year where transition, uncertainty and a humbling Gold Cup final defeat to Mexico were among the definitive stories on the men’s side, Howard remained, as ever, a model of consistency. America’s rock in the back began the year aiding his club Everton on another one of their vintage David Moyes springs, which saw the club move away from the bottom of the table to a comfortable position in the top half. Howard’s performance last Christmas against Manchester City was cited by David Moyes as being “absolutely a spark” in the midseason turnaround, and his form did not relent as winter turned to spring.
In an American shirt, there were vintage moments as well. Howard was outstanding against Argentina in a 1-1 draw in March, perhaps his finest game in a U.S. shirt, and was steady in the Gold Cup despite playing in front of a defense that was patched together due to injury and players being slotted in awkward positions by former manager Bob Bradley. To cap off the fine year, Howard made one of his most fantastic saves in a US shirt this November in Paris, which can be viewed here.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention runner-up Hope Solo in this section. The voting was very close, and Solo’s World Cup performance, particularly in the thrilling victory over Brazil in the World Cup quarterfinal, was a redemption story worth savoring. More impressive was the fact Solo played the entire tournament on a gimpy leg. That should make you think the next time you hear a playground “You play like a girl” taunt. Tell them to stop. And tell them the story of America’s Hope.
— Neil W. Blackmon
PAUL CALIGIURI AWARD
Rapinoe to Wambach, 120 + 2, World Cup Quarterfinals
2010 Winner: Landon Donovan, 91st minute, Algeria, World Cup
For the second straight year fans of US Soccer saw a goal that brought a heavy, weighed feeling of despair instantly to the realm of unbridled id. Much has already been written on this goal, and the end of the year will bring more words. Many of those words have done, or tried to do, the impossible, capturing a moment in time on a page that was simply indescribable. Fortunately for the younger generation and those who will follow, the age of internet videos gone viral leaves you with one other way to savor the goal we at TYAC have simply called “The Cross.” You can watch.
You can watch, and you can remember that not just men’s soccer, but the women’s game and the sport in general have come miles in this country since Brandi Chastain buried her penalty kick to win the World Cup in 1999. That goal was a moment in time many have tried to describe that convinced countless young women that they too could play on that team one day. But more than that, it was a sporting moment so glorious that one knew, just watching it, that they would be fortunate to ever see something like that again. This summer, they did. And once again, little girls playing the game on playgrounds the nation wide are trying to recreate that moment. Unlike Chastain’s spot kick– this moment, this cross, will require a great deal of practice. And that’s a great thing.
American Maradona (Best American Player 23 Years Old or Younger)
2010 Winner: Michael Bradley
Sometimes people impress you so much you wonder if they have “to do lists: on January 1st that look like Fitzgerald novellas. Or maybe that’s just me. Here’s what I envision Alex Morgan, the one they call “Baby Horse”, had on her list at the end of 2010.
Alex’s 2011 To Do List: Be named “NEXT” by ESPN The Magazine. Graduate Cal-Berkeley. Begin professional soccer career. Score critical goal in World Cup qualifying. Score in the World Cup Final. Secure awesome marketing deal with NIKE. Turn 22.
Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. That’s just ridiculous. And she’s just getting started. And yes, there is a great deal of pressure that goes along with being dubbed the “next great hope” in American soccer. But when you’ve faced the pressure of a World Cup Final– how tough is that to deal with really?
The following story, relayed by friend of TYAC Agie Pniewski, explains perfectly why we love this year’s American Maradona winner so much:
“Why Alex Morgan for American Maradona? I recall going through withdrawals from the WWC and seeing some last minute feed Sunshine television-esque broadcast feed from a WLS game, just days after the final and not only did Morgan suit up, but played with some gumption. I like that in my athletes.” So do we, Agie. So do we.
FREE BEER MOVEMENT’S FRANKIE HEJDUK “HARD PARTIER” AWARD
A new award, created by our friends atFree Beer Movement, who quite simply run one of the most original and compelling soccer websites we’ve ever seen. The spiritual leader of FBM is TYAC cult hero Frankie Hejduk, who, along with his and we quote his Frankieness “other San Diego dude” Steve Cherundolo have been known to enjoy a good time. And we trust that our first FBM Hejduk Hard Partier Winner, CJ Sapong, does too. All you need to know is we’ve received assurances that at the MLS Cup Final, Bumpy Pitch and NIKE threw a little party. And CJ Sapong is not sorry for partying. Not one bit. Hopefully Miss Solo is paying attention. See what we did there? Yes, it was shameful.
DEREK ZOOLANDER AWARD (Most Really, Really, Ridiculously Good Looking American Soccer Player)
2010 Winner: Carlos Bocanegra
The original Zoolander, Captain America, is dethroned. Alex Morgan takes over, and she basically dares Hope Solo or anyone else to take this award from her. As the first person to capture two awards at this point, she’s more or less doing what she usually does– stealing the show. And yes, given her formidable list of 2011 accomplishments, she’s well aware that there is more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking.
Part III of this Feature, which will include the three awards where TYAC sends hardware to the winner, will be posted shortly. Thanks to all who voted.