US Soccer 2011: A Year In Review

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It is that time of the year. The time when everyone puts together their top ten lists of the year behind us. I decided to my own list about soccer in the United States.  I didn’t want to overwhelm the casual soccer fan, so I stuck to a short list of just three. Maybe as years go on I can write longer lists. The World Cup is in 2014 so I’m sure I can write a longer one then. But for now, here are my top three US Soccer events from 2011.

#3. CONCACAF Gold Cup

The 2011 Gold Cup was held in the United States and in turn, made the US men’s national team the favorite to win it all over Mexico. In the quarterfinals, the United States beat Jamaica and Mexico defeated Guatemala. Then in the semis, Mexico handled Honduras while the US avenged its loss earlier in the year to Panama by beating them to advance to the finals. The stage was set for June 25 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The US played their archrival Mexico that they had so much trouble beating at home, but this would be the year. They got off to a great start by scoring two goals in the first twenty-three minutes. All signs pointed toward a USA Gold Cup victory. But then Mexico got on the board in the 29th minute and tied it in the 36th. The momentum carried over and the second half was all Mexico with the score ending 4-2 in favor of the Mexicans. The US had been embarrassed.

#2. US Men’s National Team Signs Jurgen Klinsmann

The last straw for Bob Bradley was getting embarrassed by Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup; but there were other glaring problems that led to the signing of Klinsmann at the end of July this year. Bradley had proven time and time again that he struggled choosing the right personnel, the right formation, and the right game plan to start a game. He was very good at halftime adjustments, but it is important to play an entire game. That is ultimately why the United States lost to Ghana in the World Cup knockout stages. So US Soccer President Sunil Gulati had no choice but to go shopping for a new head coach. The German soccer legend, Jurgen Klinsmann was the frontrunner and was eventually hired July 29th. But is he the answer? In his first seven matches as head coach for the United States he has a record of two wins, one draw, and four losses. In his defense however, all of the matches have been friendlies, he may not have the personnel he wants, or he may need more time to set his philosophies, so we’ll see how things pan out as the US attempts to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

#1. US Women’s National Team Makes Epic Run in 2011 World Cup

This past summer was another fun one to watch as Americans got soccer fever again during another US World Cup run. Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, and the tournament favorite USA took the field in Germany to attempt to win the country’s third women’s World Cup. The women were shocked by Sweden in the group stages, which was a feeling that the team was not used to. But they still advanced to the knockout stages and the matchup with Brazil was set. The women had been embarrassed by them in the previous World Cup and they looked to get revenge in the first knockout round. The game went into extra time, tied at 1-1. Brazil scored a go-ahead goal on a penalty kick, and it looked like the women would be knocked out early. But Wambach’s golden head found the back of the net in final minutes to take the game to penalty kicks. The US Women took the momentum and beat the Brazilians to get to the semifinals. They took care of France in the semis and Japan waited in the finals to decide the 2011 tournament. The US scored late in the second half, Japan scored later in the half. The US scored late in overtime, Japan scored later in overtime. The US could not shake the motivated island of Japan. The pressure seemingly got to the US and they lost in penalties. Japan had won for their country that had been devastated by tsunamis. The great story had been completed. The US may not have won, but the states once again became enthralled by world’s most popular game.

 

It is tough to say what 2012 holds for the US sport of soccer. There are no World Cups to keep our attention. Maybe Klinsmann can turn the team around and lead them into the 2014 World Cup on a high note. Only time will tell, but for now we have the Euros this summer and for MLS fans around the country, soccer is just around the corner. Maybe with the Mayans predicting an end to the world, the planets will align or something and soccer will gain popularity and be a fan favorite around the United States. Since the odds of that happening are very faint, I will simply say…See you in 2012!

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