U.S. Soccer 2008 Athlete of the Year Candidate Bios
The candidates for Male, Female, Young Male and Young Female Athlete of the Year awards for 2008.
Nov. 18, 2008
SHANNON BOXX, Midfielder
The USA’s defensive midfielder not only dominated the middle of the field for the USA in 2008, but also contributed greatly on the offensive side in helping set the team’s attacking rhythm. She started all 31 games she’s played in so far and is second on the team in minutes played. She was one of five players to play all 600 minutes at the 2008 Olympics, where she had a brilliant tournament as perhaps the USA’s most consistent force over the six games. Boxx scored just one goal in 2008, but it was a big one, coming in the final game of the 2008 Four Nations Tournament as the USA defeated host China, 1-0, to win the first of five tournament titles this year. Boxx was recently named one of 10 finalists for the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, the second nomination of her career.
LORI CHALUPNY, Defender
Chalupny firmly established herself as one of the world’s best left backs in 2008 after making the move from center midfield, where she played during the 2007 Women’s World Cup. Chalupny is one of the USA’s team leaders in matches and minutes played in 2008, contributing greatly to the team’s stingy defense that allowed less than half a goal a game, while aggressively working the flanks on the attack in the USA’s ball possession style. Chalupny had an eventful Olympics, getting knocked out of the first match, then missing the second while recovering from the minor concussion. She rebounded to play every minute the rest of the way and scored one of the greatest and most dramatic goals in U.S. history, cutting inside from the left wing to power a shot into the upper left corner against Japan in the Olympic semifinal, giving the USA a crucial 2-1 lead just before halftime.
ANGELA HUCLES, Midfielder/Forward
The versatile Hucles had her best-ever year by far for the U.S. National Team, setting career highs for matches played, starts, minutes and most importantly, goals. Heading into the Olympics, Hucles had scored three times, two of them game-winners – including the winner in the Peace Queen Cup title game – and the third on a magical 40-yard strike against Norway. When Abby Wambach broke her leg in the match before the Olympics, Hucles was thrust into a starting role and had a remarkable Olympic Games. She started all six matches at forward and played every minute of the tournament, leading the USA in scoring with four goals. Hucles scored in three consecutive games, getting one against New Zealand in the USA’s final group match, then scored the first goal in the quarterfinal win over Canada and finally tallied twice in the dramatic semifinal victory over Japan.
CARLI LLOYD, Midfielder
The USA’s center midfielder added a dangerous edge to the U.S. attack in 2008 with her ability to beat players on the dribble, shoot from distance and also put her teammates in position to score. She has pounded in nine goals so far this year, including several game-winners, while tying a yearly career high, but has also dished for nine assists, tripling her yearly career high. She started all six games and played every minute at the 2008 Olympics, where she expended some Herculean energy and scored two of the most important goals of her career. Both goals were invaluable in the USA’s run to the gold medal. Her blast from the top of the penalty box in the USA’s 1-0 group game win over Japan kept the USA alive in the tournament, and then her legendary strike in overtime of the gold medal game against Brazil pulled the Americans to Olympic glory.
CHRISTIE RAMPONE, Defender
The USA’s captain was rock solid all year long, leading the team in matches and minutes played while setting yearly career highs in both categories. She earned her 200th cap in 2008, became the sixth player in U.S. history to do so, while her world class speed, ball-winning, leadership and competitiveness were paramount in the USA’s historic success this year. Her ability to run down dangerous attackers and consistently win one-on-one battles on the ground and in the air played a vital role in the USA’s run to the Olympic gold medal. Still one of the USA’s best athletes, she helped start the USA’s attacks out of the back while leading a defense which has limited opponents to just 17 goals in 34 games. She was one of five players to play all 600 minutes of the Olympics, winning her second gold medal while playing in her sixth world championship.
HOPE SOLO, Goalkeeper
Solo had an excellent Olympics, playing every minute of all six games and came up huge in the gold medal game, where she had one of the best matches of her career on the biggest stage. Her ability to dominate the penalty box and make brave saves contributed greatly to the USA’s success in 2008. She has started 25 games this year, going 21-1-0 while allowing less than half a goal per game. She started the championship games of four of the five tournaments that the USA won this year, and also got the win in the semifinal of the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament which sent the USA to Beijing. She is now second all-time in almost every U.S. goalkeeping category, including wins and shutouts, picking up 12 blank sheets so far this year. Solo was one of two goalkeepers nominated as finalists for the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year.
U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year Candidates
CARLOS BOCANEGRA, Defender
The USA’s team captain continued to expand his leadership presence, serving as one of the anchors of the backline while improving his adeptness at scoring goals off set pieces. Bocanegra’s well-placed header gave the U.S. a 1-0 away win at Guatemala to start the Semifinal Round of qualifying, their first victory in Guatemala in 20 years, and gave him a shot at the Best Performance (Player) award in the 2008 Best of U.S. Soccer awards. He earned Sierra Mist Man of the Match honors after he tallied the game-winner in the comprehensive 3-0 win in Poland, elevating his career international goal tally into double digits. After departing Fulham following a four-year career in England, he quickly stepped in to solidify the defense at Rennes in the French Ligue 1, helping the side climb near the top of the league table.
MICHAEL BRADLEY, Midfielder
Already having amassed a vast résumé of experience at the international level, the resourceful midfielder built on that foundation by making substantial contributions in both World Cup qualifying and the 2008 Olympic Games. While proving an imposing presence in the center of the park, he played the second-most number of minutes of any player for the Men’s National Team, appearing in six qualifiers. After scoring against Barbados, he tallied the game-winner against Trinidad & Tobago on Sept. 10 in Chicago en route to collecting Sierra Mist Man of the Match honors. A leader on the U.S. Olympic Team, he also enjoyed the most prolific year of his professional career, finishing the 2007-08 season with 20 goals in all competitions for SC Heerenveen in Holland. After jumping to Borussia Moenchengladbach, he opened his scoring account by recording the tying goal in the 2-2 draw against Bayern Munich.
CLINT DEMPSEY, Forward
Dempsey proved as versatile as he is dazzling, seamlessly transitioning between his roles at midfield and forward. He poured in four goals in World Cup qualifying, including a deuce against Barbados that propelled him to Sierra Mist Man of the Match honors. After making 10 starts for the U.S. in 2007, he is approaching the half-century mark in all-time appearances. His goal in the 3-0 win against T&T helped him hit the lucky 13 in career goals. Dempsey is still a contributor as the USA’s lone remaining representative at Fulham, once again aiding the Cottagers’ efforts to remain in England’s top flight.
LANDON DONOVAN, Midfielder
Yet another record setting year for both club and country continues to add to the living legacy of one of the USA’s key men in the midfield. After snatching sole possession of first place on the USA’s all-time goalscoring chart when he tallied his 35th strike in the 2-0 win against Sweden, Donovan became the 11th player in U.S. history and the fourth youngest in the world to accumulate 100 caps when he started against No. 1 ranked Argentina in June. That motivation carried over to his club season as he grabbed a career-high 19 goals en route to earning the MLS Golden Boot and a place as a finalist for league MVP honors.
TIM HOWARD, Goalkeeper
Tim Howard has lived up to the promise of the tag of ‘next great American goalkeeper’, firmly establishing his place as the USA’s first-choice in backstopping the defense. Earning five shutouts in nine matches, he made seven saves – some of the spectacular variety - in blanking top-ranked Argentina on June 4 in New Jersey. Collecting Man of the Match honors that day, that momentum continued into the summer as he made save after electric save to contribute to the USA’s record-setting six-match shutout run in the World Cup qualifying campaign. He was also recognized as the team’s best performer in the historic 1-0 win away to Guatemala. Howard was equally impressive at Everton, playing in 36 of 38 league games and helping his side to a fifth place finish in the English Premier League and a place in the UEFA Cup.
OGUCHI ONYEWU, Defender
The USA’s gentle giant is a rock in central defensive, combining speed, power and aerial ability. ‘Gooch’ got into the action at the attacking end as well, netting a career-high three goals in 10 appearances. The only three-time winner of the Sierra Mist Man of the Match award in 2008 – against Mexico, Spain and Cuba – he won most of the one-on-one battles he faced against some of the world’s top striking talents. He scored goals against Mexico, Poland and Cuba, affirming the USA’s potency on set pieces. Onyewu achieved a career goal back in Belgium, anchoring a Standard de Liege backline that helped propel the club to their first league title in 25 years while earning them a precious place in the lucrative UEFA Champions League.
U.S. Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year Candidates
KRISTIE MEWIS, Midfielder
The USA’s attacking center midfielder had a stellar 2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, scoring two goals while winning the Bronze Ball as the third best player in the tournament. Slated to play outside midfield during the World Cup, a position she played most of the year for the U-17s, she was moved into the center after the first match and made an impact on every game. She was one of the USA’s leading scorers in 2008 with 13 goals, including six in international matches, and her goal from outside the penalty area in the quarterfinal win over South Korea was one of the best of the U-17 Women’s World Cup. The left-footed Mewis wowed crowds in New Zealand with her dribbling and shooting, showing some similarities to Carli Lloyd’s play for the full team. She is headed to Boston College next fall for her freshman year of college.
VICKI DIMARTINO, Forward
The scrappy forward became the first U.S. player to score in five consecutive matches at a Women’s World Cup, and her six goals won the Silver Ball as the second-best scorer in the tournament. In the group play, DiMartino scored against Japan, Paraguay and then bagged a wonderful goal in the USA’s crucial 1-1 tie with France that qualified the team for the quarterfinals, where she scored against South Korea. She also scored the equalizing goal in the USA’s dramatic 2-1 victory over Germany in the semifinals while coming close to getting a goal or two in the championship final against North Korea. DiMartino’s work rate on the forward line and non-stop effort to break through opponents defenses made her one of the top strikers at the first FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and hence one of the top forwards in the world for her age group. She is headed to Boston College next fall for her freshman year of college.
MICHELLE ENYEART, Forward
The powerful forward is one of the leading scorers for the U.S. U-20s heading into the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Chile, scoring 10 goals in 2008, including nine in international play. Opening the successful CONCACAF qualifying campaign with a hat trick against Trinidad & Tobago, Enyeart went on to tie for the tournament lead with six goals and two assists in five games. Also one of the top strikers in college soccer, she scored seven goals and added seven assists for the University of Portland during the regular season, helping the Pilots to a 17-1-0 record and the WCC championship while winning 16 straight games. Her speed, combined with her nose for the goal, give her a chance to be one of the most prolific forwards at the U-20 Women’s World Cup this fall.
ALYSSA NAEHER, Goalkeeper
The first-choice ‘keeper for the U.S. U-20s, she has started 13 games for the USA heading into the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, which includes nine internationals. Pegged as one of the top goalkeepers in the world for her age group, she is tall, standing at 5-foot-9, brave and composed in the penalty area. An All-American at Penn State, she played in 21 games for the Nittany Lions in 2008, starting 19 while compiling a record of 11-4-0 with a goals against average of 1.11. That was lowered to a miniscule 0.53 GAA in Big 10 play as PSU won the conference title for the 11th consecutive year. She also played every minute for the Nittany Lions during the Big Ten Tournament, which they also won. For the U-20s, Naeher played four out of five games during World Cup qualifying, allowing just one goal along the way.
KEELIN WINTERS, Midfielder
The defensive midfielder for the U.S. U-20s, her play in the middle of the field has been a key to the USA’s success in 2008. One of the USA’s co-captains, she is a relative newcomer to the U.S. National Teams, but has proved her abilities on the international level this year. She leads the U-20s in matches played and has scored two goals with three assists from her deep lying position heading into the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Chile. At the University of Portland, she helped the Pilots to a 17-1-0 regular season record while scoring two goals and adding one assist as UP won 16 straight games to end the regular season. A gritty ball-winner with the skills to help set the USA’s attack, her consistent play in holding down the midfield will be a key to the USA’s run at the U-20 WWC.
COURTNEY VERLOO, Forward
The powerful 5-foot-9 forward scored four times at the 2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, including the game-winner in the dramatic come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Germany in the semifinal. She also scored twice in the 4-2 victory over South Korea in the quarterfinal and barely missed winning the Bronze Boot as the third leading scorer in the tournament. Her four goals and one assist where the same as a North Korean player, but Verloo was edged out in the tie-breaker as she played two more minutes than the Korean over the course of the tournament. A gliding runner with excellent back-to-goal skills, she was one of the most effective players at the first-ever WWC in New Zealand, creating danger during every match with her skills, work rate and strong runs inside the penalty area. She was the USA’s leading scorer in 2008 with 14 goals, including a team-leading six at CONCACAF Qualifying. She is headed to Stanford University next fall for her freshman year of college.
U.S. Soccer Young Male Athlete of the Year Candidates
SACHA KLJESTAN, Midfielder
During 2008, Kljestan continued to build on his steady rise as towards becoming one of the best young players for the U.S. One of the leaders on the Under-23 Men’s National Team, Kljestan served as the team’s co-captain at CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying in March, scoring a goal in the team’s key semifinal win against Canada that secured a berth to the Olympics. He continued his impressive performance in Beijing, scoring the first goal in an dramatic draw against the Netherlands in Group D action and then converting a penalty against Nigeria to pull his side within a goal of advancing to the knock out rounds. The 23-year-old also played a key role for Chivas USA, helping the Goats advance to the MLS Playoffs with five goals and seven assists in 22 appearances.
MAURICE EDU, Midfielder/Defender
While earning several starts with the Men’s National Team at center midfield, Edu made a flawless transition to center back while playing for Peter Nowak’s Under-23 side. Edu captained the team during CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying in March, leading a defense that allowed only two goals through five games. In Beijing, Edu played every minute on the backline, charged with the task of defending some of the best young players in the world. Manning a defensive unit that had spent little time together prior to the Olympic Games, Edu stepped up into a leadership position in China, where he also set up Sacha Kljestan’s penalty kick against Nigeria in the final game of group play. On the club side, Edu, who was the top pick of the 2007 MLS SuperDraft by Toronto FC and the 2007 MLS Rookie of the Year, made a major move when he signed with the Glasgow Rangers of the Scottish Premier League.
STUART HOLDEN, Midfielder
Holden proved why he is one of the top young prospects in the U.S. during the Olympics. In February, Holden was called into his first-ever Men’s National Team training camp in his hometown of Houston and he started four games in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying. In China, he started all three matches, playing both central and wide midfield along the way. A virtual unknown on the international stage, Holden scored the only goal of the game in the USA’s major victory against Japan, a 1-0 win that had the team on top of Group D, albeit temporarily. Holden went on to be one of the team’s most consistent performers over the three games in China – the first major international tournament in his young career. Back in Houston, Holden had career highs in appearances, starts and minutes while adding three goals and four assists.
ROBBIE ROGERS, Midfielder
A breakout player in Major League Soccer, Rogers kicked off the 2008 season on fire, leading the Columbus Crew to an early lead in the Eastern Conference – a lead they wouldn’t relinquish en route to the MLS Cup. By scoring six goals on the season and starting 26 games, Rogers earned a place on the MLS All-Star Game’s Starting XI. He would be unable to play in that game, however, as it fell during the build up to the USA’s run at the Olympic Games. Rogers started all three games for the U.S. in China, playing end to end from his left wing position. Against Nigeria, Rogers was forced to play two positions, after an early red card put the U.S. at a one-man disadvantage, and held his own for most of the match.
MICHAEL OROZCO, Defender
Coming into 2008, Michael Orozco was a virtual unknown in the United States, spending his entire professional career across the border in Mexico’s Primera Division with San Luis. He was called into his first U.S. National Team training camp with Peter Nowak’s Under-23 team in February and made an immediate impression with the MNT assistant. Weeks later, he was starting in the team’s second match of qualifying, where he went on to earn Best XI honors for the tournament. Earning a place in the starting eleven at the Olympic Games in Beijing, Orozco was part of a unit that shutout Japan in the opener and nearly held off reigning European Champion the Netherlands in the second game, where the U.S. eventually came away with a draw. Along the way, Orozco was part of several training camps with the Men’s National Team and earned his first cap in a World Cup qualifier in Trinidad & Tobago in September.
MARVELL WYNNE, Defender
Wynne, the top pick in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft, was an anchor of a Toronto FC team that was vastly improved from 2007. He started in all 24 games in which he played with TFC, scoring his first two career goals late in the season. In March he was a stalwart at right back during Olympic qualifying, with his blazing speed valuable at both ends of the field. He played three games on the back line as part of a defense that gave up only one goal while he was on the field. Wynne then went on to play all 270 minutes on defense in Beijing. He played a key role in the game-winner against Japan, joining the attack on the wing and getting the ball to Holden for the goal. Wynne was called in by MNT head coach Bob Bradley for training camps throughout the year.