Neil W. Blackmon
As promised, we deliver Part II of the Fourth Annual Yanks Are Coming Best (and Worst) of US Soccer Awards today. Today, we concentrate on excellence, announcing the winners of our four “big” awards that come with plaques and our award for the best young American soccer player of the year.
To review the winners in Part One, and see who the voters were, click here.
Onto the awards!
American Maradona – Best American Player 23 or Under
2010 – MB 90
2011- Alex Morgan
2012- Alex Morgan
2013 Winner: Sydney Leroux
Why She Won: “She wins over Mix Diskerud because while Mix is great, and he’s made great strides this year, there’s no way he’s the best men’s player in the world in a couple years. Leroux just might be that unstoppable force.” – Jon Levy
Who Almost Won: Mix Diskerud, who received a host of votes without much commentary.
Aron Johannsson, who Zack Goldman wrote “seems to have it all– a deadly strike, a keen eye for finding his teammates, willing to have a go. There’s no telling how good the kid will be.”
And now for our “plaque” awards. Again, the winner of each of these awards is mailed a beautiful oak plaque with their name on it, along with bronze nameplates for each former winner. This is the first year, however, that we have four plaques, as we’ve added a plaque for the award we call the Mia Hamm Award, honoring the finest women’s player in US Soccer over a calendar year.
Bob Bradley Managerial Excellence Plaque– Finest American Manager
2010- No Plaque, No Award
2011- Bruce Arena
2012- Bruce Arena
2013 Winner: Bob Bradley
Why He Won: He should have won SI’s Sportsman of The Year. But hey, don’t believe us, read Grant Wahl’s nominating piece. Our Garrett McInnis wrote a beautiful piece on Bob Bradley’s time managing the Egyptian National Team, where he fell one bad day at Ghana away from qualifying the Pharaohs against literally insurmountable odds. McInnis’ piece should have been among the great A Football Report’s “Best Football Writing of 2013”, but sadly was not. Either way, the piece was masterful. Read it here and understand why Bradley is our honoree this season.
Who Almost Won: No one “almost” one as Bradley won handily, but Jason Kreis received multiple votes.
On Kreis, Zack Goldman writes: “No American soccer coach in the last five years has so consistently found more with less or done more with less.” That’s hard to argue.
Jon Levy voted for Jurgen Klinsmann, who also warranted praise: “Undefeated and untied Gold Cup and a relatively dominant run in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.” Hard to argue.
Claudio Reyna Technical Plaque– Most Improved American Soccer Player
2010- Stuart Holden
2011- Brek Shea
2012- MB 90
2013 Winner: Matt Besler
Why He Won: “He went from one pop-up US camp invite in 2012 to maybe the best positional center half in CONCACAF and the best defensive option for Jurgen Klinsmann. Even for a guy coming off a monster 2012, that’s eye-opening. He told TYAC in an interview before the MLS season started his goals were to anchor the MLS Cup champion defense and earn a spot in Brazil. Mission accomplished. Next step is cementing his meteoric rise with a monster World Cup. Empircs suggest he’ll deliver.” — Neil W. Blackmon
Who Almost Won: Christen Press, the young American forward who displayed very quickly her overwhelming talent in a US Shirt.
Zack Goldman on Press: “She is one of the most naturally gifted players the women’s program has ever had at its disposal, but you’d be forgiven for not knowing who she is. Press broke every record there is to break at Stanford, tore up the USL W-League with Pali Blues, set the WPS alight with MagicJack, and has been puttingup absolutely silly numbers in Scandinavia for the past two years…but it took until February of this year for her to get her first cap. She is, in my opinion, far and away the most underrated player, male or female, in US Soccer– and also the most improved this year. Playing alongside the likes of Morgan, Wambach, and Leroux, Press has added a great deal of poise and flexibility to her game in the attacking third. So often the focal point of the third in the past, she’s grown as a player while the limelight has been on those three closer to goal. She tallied three times in her first two caps– the first woman ever to do so– and the future is only going to get brighter for her. Remember the name.”
Jon Levy on the Concacaf Conqueror!!! “EJ! EJ! EJ! See my recent Eddie Johnson piece. What a remarkable turnaround.”
Mia Hamm Award– Most Outstanding Female American Soccer Player
2012 (NO PLAQUE) – Alex Morgan
2013 Winner: Abby Wambach
Why She Won: “Broke the record for all-time international goal scorer for men OR women this year with her 163rd goal, then kept scoring. Seems good enough for me…” — Eric Giardini
“No more #ChasingMia, she wins the plaque with Hamm’s name on it,breaking Twitter in the process…” — Jon Levy
“How fitting was it that as the younger Morgan took the accolades, Abby, now playing the role Mia Hamm played to her, scored the most goals, and when she finally broke Mia’s record,she did it with that glorious, perfect head- the one that broke Brazil’s will, France’s heart, and has made her a champion at every level…” – Neil W. Blackmon
Who Almost Won: Sydney Leroux
Zack Goldman for the Leroux voters: “‘Lady Duece'” had a fantastic 2013– but one cannot glean her true impact just by glancing at a box score. She put up decent numbers, but she adds so much more than just goals and assists to this USWNT squad as they prepare to win their first Women’s World Cup in 16 years next summer in Leroux’s native Canada. Her ability to stretch opposing defenses pays massive dividends even if she doesn’t touch the ball– and her high-tempo,direct style provides the Yanks with an edge they really have lacked for years. The trendy pick here might be Morgan, Wambach, or even Neil W. Blackmon’s heroine Carli Lloyd– but the biggest difference maker in this team has been Leroux.”
Brian McBride Award –Most Outstanding American Soccer Player, Male or Female
2010- Clint Dempsey
2011- Abby Wambach
2012- Michael Bradley
2013 Winner: Jozy Altidore
Why He Won:
“Monster year: worked hard, scored, secured a great transfer and was EXACTLY what we wanted and needed him to be. A big, strong, holdup guy who can score and now, can run, for 90 minutes.” — Andrew Villegas
“Scored some big goals this summer when we needed him to answer questions about his form. Led all men’s scorers with 8 goals. Big year.” — Eric Giardini
“Jozy Altidore had himself the most outstanding calendar year for an American in recent memory. He scored 31 goals across all competitions for his former club, AZ Alkmaar in the 2012-13 season before making the jump back to the Barclay’s Premier League with Sunderland. He’s started slow there, but hardly a person blames him. He recorded eight goals for the US in 2013, including FOUR GAME WINNERS: Panama, Honduras, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Jamaica.” — Connor Walsh
Who Nearly Won:
“The United States lost its unbeaten streak when Bradley pulled up lame in Costa Rica. To me, that was one of the defining memories when I thought about this award. Entering the year, no one but Clint Dempsey could score a goal, but the US were poised and more than capable of attempting to play proactive football because, for the first time since Claudio Reyna, they had a field general. Bradley has done nothing but cement his status as just that in 2013, and if he’s healthy, the Americans can absolutely advance out of the Group of Death this June. I think he’s the best player in CONCACAF, and I’m not positive it is altogether close.” — Neil W. Blackmon
“He is the toast of CONCACAF, the fulcrum of this US Men’s National Team, and blazing trails abroad. Bradley is the single most important player on this team—and the most outstanding in 2013 by any reasonable measure.” — Zack Goldman
“If the award is about who had the best 2013 in a US Soccer shirt, and I think it is, it goes to Run DMB. He became, despite limitations, a stalwart at left back, for forward to advantage, captained a Gold Cup Championship squad and authored a number of signature moments through his toughness and his willingness to learn and adjust. Run DMB, King of 2013, ain’t none higher, sucker sucker RM’s should call him sire.” — Jon Levy
The comments, as always, are yours.