Happy New Year, readers!
For the last three years, we’ve concluded the year here at the TYAC home offices by handing out awards to the best (and yes, worst) of US Soccer for the calendar year that was. This year, we thought we’d bump the awards back to coincide with “Awards Season”, a fitting move given the “prestige” of winning any TYAC honor. I mean, let’s be serious here- would you rather win a Golden Globe or the TYAC “Mathis/Lalas Award” for Best Hairstyle by a US Soccer Player…we think the answer is a no-brainer.
Either way, here’s how the awards work. Over the past month, a motley crew of soccer dignitaries have submitted ballots to TYAC. There are a host of awards- each explained in the margin next to the award name– and four “big awards”, all reserved for Part II of this piece. We operate on “one man (or woman), one vote”, with no additional weight given to a writer’s status with TYAC, meaning, essentially, that just because someone writes here on a permanent basis doesn’t mean they’re vote counts more than one of our guest voters.
Finally, listed beneath each award winner, we’ve added commentary from a voter or two, which was part of the ballot process.
For the four major awards, TYAC sends a plaque, with a bronze nameplate listing the winner and past winners, to the recipient. The plaques have been well-received in the past by each winner.
Let’s introduce our cast of voters, starting with the TYAC writers: Neil W. Blackmon, Jon Levy, Daniel Seco, Connor Walsh, and Garrett McInnis.
Next our guest voters:
Dr. Raf Crowley– Now a professor of engineering and physics, Dr. Crowley wrote about tactics for TYAC for the first three years of the site’s existence. We’re glad he joined us for the Fourth Annual TYAC awards.
Andrew Villegas- A media guy by trade, Andrew has written about MLS for TYAC extensively in the past and is another TYAC alum doing good things we’re pleased to have back.
Eric Giardini- A UVA alum who squared off with our own Neil W. Blackmon as a guest on The Shin Guardian’s very entertaining USA 2002-2010 Mock Draft, Giardini is a lifelong Roma fan who frequents the Church of Michael Bradley. Giardini also has written often for different sites, including our friends at The Shin Guardian. Follow him on Twitter at the listed handle below!
Editors Note: Regrettably, we first identified Eric’s Twitter handle with that of @tempofreesoccer, and stated he authored that site. While that site, and Twitter handle are outstanding, Eric is not affiliated with the website and his Twitter handle, which is also a great follow, is @stroke_of_luck.
Zack Goldman– Also a Shin Guardian “Mock Draft” participant, Goldman is a frequent contributor to all things soccer at A Football Report as well. Goldman is an Oxford-educated Southern Californian and probably has one of the best Twitter feeds in the US game, at @thatdamnyank.
Now you’ve met the voters. Here’s the list of awards. (Past winners will be noted further down…)
Mathis/Lalas Award — Best Hairstyle By a US Soccer Player
Free Darko Freddy Adu Golden Ryan Leaf Award- Most Disappointing American Soccer Player
Brian Ching Award– Hardest Working Player in American Soccer
Jon Levy “Lightning Cup” Award- Player Most Likely to Induce Fits of Drunken Rage and Unbridled Id/Joy in 90 Minutes
Tony Romo Award- Most “Overrated” Player in American Soccer
Tony Meola/Brad Friedel Award- Most Outstanding American Goalkeeper
Paul Caligiuri Award- Best US Goal in A Calendar Year
American Maradona – Most Outstanding American Player, 23 or Younger
Free Beer Movement “Frankie Hejduk Hard Partier” Award- Pretty self-explanatory. It would be most fun to “party” with this American player…
Bob Bradley Plaque – Best American Soccer Manager (yes, Klinsmann can win, he’s a dual-citizen)
Brian McBride Plaque- Most Outstanding American Soccer Player in a Calendar Year
Mia Hamm Plaque – Most Outstanding Female Soccer Player in a Calendar Year
Claudio Reyna Technical Plaque- Most Improved American Soccer Player in a Calendar Year
Without further Freddy Adu– let’s move on the first set of winners, with the plaque winners coming in Part II.
Clint Mathis/Alexi Lalas Award – Hair!!!
2010- Stu Holden
2011- Brek Shea
2012- Brek Shea
2013 Winner: Mix Diskerud
Why He Won: “No Question, (it has to be) Mix Diskerud. Sorry, @StuHoldensHair, you are so last cycle. Sweet Keratin, does Mix have a killer mane. This makes Dorian Gray look ugly. He’s like Zac Efron playing a young Charles Dickens. It’s not just the locks, it’s what lies beneath- mystery, charm, poise. It suits him ever so well as a player…relaxed under pressure, in tune with its surroundings, and so gentle that it tickles him as he runs. His mop is the “smize” of hair, and it has earned nothing but gold here. Just give him next year’s award while you’re at it.” — Zack Goldman
Who Nearly Won: Jermaine Jones for the snow fro; Eric Lichaj,whose mohawk Eric Giardini correctly points out is “the hair most similar to one of the award’s namesakes”. Connor Walsh adds that the fauxhawk/mohawk epicness was enough to steal the title away from Shea. Then he voted for Diskerud anyway.
Free Darko Freddy Adu Golden Ryan Leaf Award – Most Disappointing American Soccer Player of The Year
2010- Robbie Findley
2011- Tim Ream
2012- Freddy Adu
2013 Winner: Timothy Chandler
Why He Won: “I almost voted for someone else just because I’m not certain the guy playing in Germany right now isn’t just a Manchurian version of the real Timmy Chandler, who I’m convinced is locked away in Roger Espinoza’s basement. Seriously, the guy starts to open World Cup qualifying, gets abused by Espinoza, and is, to a large extent, a key reason Brian Straus was able to write the article that defined the early part of 2013. Then he falls off the map, both because of injury, bad form, and..wait for it… a fear of flying!! American fans wanted a seamless transition to a world without Steve Cherundolo. However ridiculous that hope may have been, Chandler has created more problems than answers, and for that, he almost merits a “Free Darko” type website.” — Neil W. Blackmon
Who Almost Won: Josh Gatt. “On a team desperate for wing play he should have been a lock for the plane to Brazil by now, but he can’t stay healthy and tended towards tunnel vision in a USMNT shirt.” — Jon Levy
Brek Shea, who claimed two votes. Andrew Villegas writes that “2013 was supposed to be a break out year for Shea, but relegated to the bench or the locker room at Stoke City, he’s shown that no one ever took him seriously as an EPL threat except for reserves/training/loan fodder.”
Zack Goldman agreed and wrote: “There’s no question about this one in my mind. Brek has been given every possible chance to succeed and has just not put it together this cycle. His frame, skill set, and attacking posture remain rather unique in the player pool, but his confidence has been extinguished after 18 months of highly mediocre play. There were such high hopes for him to be a huge component of Jurgen Klinsmann’s system, but it’s pretty safe to say that he’s not going to Brazil. He is my Free Freddy Darko Adul Golden Ryan Leaf Award winner for 2013– and he may well claim the double at this year’s TYACies as winner of the “Best Player to Put in as a Late Sub Against Mexico Award…”
Brian Ching Award— Hardest Working Player in American Soccer
2010- Clint Dempsey
2011- Clint Dempsey
2012- MB 90 (Michael Bradley)
2013 Winner: DaMarcus Beasley
Why He Won: “I’m surprising everyone– and most of all, myself– when I go with DaMarcus Beasley here. What a difference a year makes. One of the most technically limited players to ever break 20 caps, let alone 100, who will likely end up at four World Cups against all odds (really, against literally all odds), started 17 of 23 matches for the USMNT this year. His time at left back has been- again, against all odds– mostly positive, though not without its healthy share of nerve-wracking moments. But, what RUN-DMB lacks in positioning, tackling, and man-marking– pretty much the three things an outside back should have– he’s made up for with a tremendous work -rate and excellent two-way understanding of his role on the pitch. Beas beat the odds in 2013 and it’s in large part because he’s worked his ass off.” — Zack Goldman
Who Almost Won: Kyle Beckerman, Jozy Altidore, MB 90
Garrett McInnis writes on Beckerman: “If that guy didn’t work so damn hard, there’s no way in hell he’d ever sniff the national team roster.”
Andrew Villegas on Altidore: “He won’t give up. Will he have another bust in England? Time will tell, but it won’t be his fault this time. He works more at hold-up play and pressuring the ball from the front line than any other USMNT player.
Eric Giardini on MB 90: “Has to be MB 90, right? I mean, it’s his nickname. Plus he spends most his time covering up Jermaine Jones’ miscues…”
Jon Levy “Lightning Cup” Award – Most Likely Player to Cause Fits of Alcohol Induced-Rage and Unbridled Id/Joy over 90 minute span
2010- Jozy Altidore
2011 – Jermaine Jones
2012- Omar Gonzalez
2013 Winner: Brek Shea
Why He Won: “Brek Shea. He’s the running fast, kicking embodiment of bipolar syndrome.” — Garrett McInnis. Agreeing was Eric Giardini, who wrote that “Shea will make one good run that will make you remember why you got all excited about him to begin with and he’ll score two crucial goals in the Gold Cup (don’t laugh, they were important!). OR.. he’ll be subbed off at halftime for looking woefully out of depth.”
Who Almost Won: Jermaine Jones.
Connor Walsh: “His play is so bi-polar. Capable of serving a ball on a plate with a defender on his shoulder to a striker; capable of shutting down an opposing playmaker, but then he’ll give the ball away with careless passing or put in a horrid tackle and pick up a yellow card for ignorant fouls. Mind-boggling.”
Zack Goldman also voted for JJ: “Jozy Altidore was my pick at first glance, but I’m going with Jermaine Jones. He’s showcased so much of his talent on the international stage this year, becoming a very complimentary presence to Michael Bradley with his excellent defensive pressure, sharp tracking of deep runs, and a deft outlet ball. At the end of the day though, his pugnacity still gets the better of him and he’s going to do something stupid that makes you want to yell mean things.”
Tony Romo Award- Most “Overrated” Player in American Soccer
2010- Jose Francisco Torres
2011- Michael Orozco-Fiscal
2012 – Chris Wondolowski
2013 Winner: Omar Gonzalez
Why He Won: “Look, I watched the Galaxy play without him too, and I understand the arguments about this being unfair. But how many times in the national team shirt did you watch him and wonder why someone with such great physical characteristics was being out-muscled by a smaller player, or why someone who has to be self-aware that they aren’t a particularly good passer would try anything ambitious rather than a simple clean-up outlet ball…you get the idea. Gonzalez is also still figuring out positioning at the international level- and he’s been exposed a time or three this year on that front, and is running out of time to fix it. I think the fact Klinsmann keeps looking at other CB’s at his spot demonstrates what we don’t want to admit: Omar probably isn’t the guy we want starting the World Cup in six months. But do we really have another option?” — Neil W. Blackmon
Who Almost Won: Alejandro Bedoya, Clint Dempsey
Jon Levy on Bedoya: “All due respect to our friends at The Shin Guardian, there’s a thought process among certain US Soccer fans that Ale-Alejandro Bedoya should be the starter on the right wing. He’s a nice player who will rampage down the wing if no one’s in front of him, but pressure him and…I’m not for starting him over Zusi or Donovan, who are both better under pressure, arguably more versatile, and certainly more up for a dogfight type game.”
Andrew Villegas on Dempsey: “The move to the Sounders has not, and will not, work. Without world class service, Dempsey whines, dives–and struggles. He’s slowing down now too, which makes it harder for him to make his own space to shoot, and “try s$#@”. Not good.”
Tony Meola/Brad Friedel Award – Best US Goalkeeper
2010- Tim Howard
2011- Tim Howard
2012 – Tim Howard
2013 Winner: Tim Howard
“With the way he finished the year both for the US and Everton, Tim Howard retains this award.” -Garrett McInnis
It wasn’t unanimous for the third time in the award’s history because…
Brad Guzan. Eric Giardini writes: “I love Tim Howard as much as anyone but Guzan pretty much carried Villa on his back to keep them from getting the drop. Still want Howard starting against Ghana in Brazil, but let’s give Brad something here…”
Andrew Villegas was among those who agreed: “Howard atop the depth chart, but no one had a better year than Guzan, particularly at Aston Villa. Four-year contract extension and a nil-nil at the Azteca? That alone is worth the award this year.
Jon Levy voted for Nick Rimando: “He wins the Gold Cup, hardly conceding a goal in the process, then narrowly loses both the US Open Cup Final and the MLS Cup Final (in the tenth round of PK’s!!. He deserved serious consideration for the MLS MVP award. Really. It’s time to give America’s #3 some love after an amazing year.”
Paul Caligiuri Award- Best US Goal in 2013
2010- Landon Donovan, 90 + 2 vs. Algeria, World Cup
2011- Rapinoe to Wambach, 120+2 vs. Brazil, World Cup Quarterfinals
2012- Carli Lloyd- Goal # 2, Gold Medal Game, London Olympics
2013 Winner: Jozy Altidore vs. Germany, Centennial Celebration Match, June 2, Washington DC
“That’s a sweet volley, plus it unleashed something in him that turned him into a goal scoring machine all summer.” — Eric Giardini
— Abby Wambach Breaks Mia Hamm’s Record, with her head of course– June 20, Harrison, New Jersey (Blackmon)
— Jozy Altidore (3-2 vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina— world class free kick. Statement goal in statement game. (Goldman)
— Clint Dempsey vs. Germany, Centennial Celebration Match, June 2nd RFK, a sweet goal he made from nothing- let’s do that in Recife (Levy)
— Landon Donovan vs. Mexico, Dos a cero- because 2-0 is fun. (Dr. Crowley)
— Eddie Johnson vs. Mexico, because dos a cero is fun. (Villegas)
And the last award for Part One…
Free Beer Movement Frankie Hejduk “Hard Partier” Award— Because we all like to party…
2010- No Award
2011 – CJ Sapong
2012- Sydney Leroux
2013 Winner: Sydney Leroux
“Whether it ‘s on the red carpet, in the club, or off a cliff, this chick goes hard.” — Zack Goldman
Who Almost Won:
Connor Walsh nominated Omar Gonzalez, who likes beer. CLICK HERE. FOR #MURICA.
Eric Giardini thought Brek Shea and Terrence Boyd should win for #MURICA- which makes sense:“One likes to party with guns and the other gets rad American flag tattos– just scroll through instagram.”
Jon Levy casts his vote for Alex Morgan: “And she’s getting married!!! How much fun is that wedding going to be? TYAC gets invites, right?”
Come back to this space for Part II tomorrow evening. We still need to reveal the American Maradona Winner, and hand out the four plaques to 2013’s biggest winners…