CHICAGO (December 21, 2004) – For their excellence at the highest levels of the sport, U.S. Soccer named U.S. Men’s National Team forward Landon Donovan as the 2004 Chevy Male Athlete of the Year and U.S. Women’s National Team forward Abby Wambach as the 2004 Chevy Female Athlete of the Year. The Chevy Athlete of the Year awards have a longer history than any major award in American soccer, and they join the FIFA Players of the Year as the only two awards to honor both the top male and the top female in the sport.
Both players become back-to-back winners of the top award for a U.S. Soccer player, having received the honor for the first time in their young careers in 2003. While Wambach joins women’s soccer legends Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm and Tiffeny Milbrett as back-to-back winners, Donovan becomes the first player in the history of the Male award to win it two years in a row and joins Kasey Keller and Marcelo Balboa as the only players to win the award twice.
U.S. Men’s National Team and FC Dallas forward Ed Johnson wins the Young Male Athlete award, while U.S. Women’s National Team and North Carolina forward Heather O’Reilly wins the Young Female Athlete honor.
“We’re honored to once again be involved with the Athlete of the Year awards,” said Phil Caruso, Chevrolet Promotions Manager. "Chevy has a long history of supporting aspiring athletes, and our partnership with U.S. Soccer is just one more example of our ongoing commitment. This year, each of the Adult Athlete winners will receive their choice of either a Chevy TrailBlazer or the all new Chevy Malibu. We’ll also donate $1,000 to the U.S. Soccer Foundation in the name of each Young Athlete winner."
As in years past, online votes registered at ussoccer.com were tallied and equivalent to 50 percent of the total votes, while the other 50 percent was represented by 100 votes that were compiled from members of the national media and U.S. Soccer representatives (from National Team coaches to the National Board of Directors).
Donovan had another outstanding year in his young soccer career, leading the U.S. Men’s National Team in scoring for the second consecutive year with five goals and five assists for 15 points. The Redlands, Calif., native played in 14 of 15 matches in 2004, captaining the team several times in the absence of veteran midfielder Claudio Reyna and leading the team to the final round of CONCACAF Qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. While he’s just 22 years old, 2004 marked the third consecutive year that he has led the U.S. MNT in games and minutes played. At the professional level, he was a 2004 MLS All-Star and finished second in scoring for the San Jose Earthquakes with six goals and 10 assists for 22 points.
“This is a great way to start the holiday season,” said Donovan. “I’m very overwhelmed right now and I think I lose a year of my life when my name is called because I never expect it knowing I’m in the best company with DaMarcus, Carlos (Bocanegra), Kasey and Claudio. Our veterans have showed the younger players how to be true pros and I’m very thankful that they have paved the way for us. I’m grateful to Chevy for their continued support of soccer in the U.S. and the fans who cheer us on from in front of their TVs or in the stands. But most importantly I want to thank Bruce and my teammates for consistently putting me in this position to be recognized in our sport.”
Coming off a dominating 2003 that saw her tie for the WUSA lead in scoring, score both goals for her Washington Freedom club in the WUSA title game, win the game’s MVP award and win the U.S. Soccer Chevy Female Athlete of the Year Award, Abby ratcheted up her game even further in 2004, scoring a team-leading 31 goals over a span of her last 30 matches. Of course, the most important of those goals was a game-winning header in overtime of the Olympic gold medal match that put the U.S. back at the top of the women’s soccer world. The 31-goal performance in 2004 marks the second highest total in a calendar year by a U.S. player. In addition, Abby’s 31 goals and 13 assists mark just the seventh time a U.S. player has recorded double figures in goals and assists in a calendar year (four of those came from Mia Hamm) and is the second highest point total for a single year in U.S. history.
“There is a group of amazingly talented women on this team and winning this award two years in a row just shows what type of support I have around me and how this team is made up of winners,” said Wambach. “I want to thank the fans, media and U.S. Soccer representatives for voting for me. I also want to thank Chevy for once again sponsoring the award and of course the U.S. Soccer Federation for giving me a chance to play the game I love."
In order to highlight up-and-coming stars within the U.S. Youth National Team system, U.S. Soccer and Chevy have also honored the Young Male and Young Female Athletes of the Year since 1988. Players can only receive this award once, with past winners including Freddy Adu (2003), Josh Wolff (1998), Lindsay Tarpley (2002) and Cat Reddick (2003).
Johnson earned the Young Male honor after a breakout year for both club and country. In his first year playing for the U.S. Men’s National Team, he scored an incredible five goals across 61 minutes in his first three MNT caps, becoming just the second player in MNT history to accomplish such a feat. His hat trick in a 21-minute span of a 6-0 World Cup qualifying win over Panama on Oct. 13 marked the first by a sub in MNT history. A star at every level of the U.S. Youth National Team system, he also appeared in 4 matches for the U-23 MNT in CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying. At the pro level, he tied for the MLS lead in scoring with 12 goals and 3 assists in 26 games for FC Dallas.
After an impressive stint with the U.S. Under-19 Women’s National Team that included a world championship in 2002, Heather O’Reilly made her mark with the full U.S. Women’s Team and played a key role in helping them win a championship of their own in 2004. The youngest player on the 2004 Olympic Team, she served as the “super sub” off the bench in 11 matches for the WNT, scoring a goal and 2 assists. Her overtime winner against Germany was one of the most important in WNT history, sending the U.S. to the Olympic final. At the collegiate level, she finished second in scoring for the undefeated North Carolina Tar Heels with 12 goals and seven assists in 18 games.
Chevrolet, the largest division of General Motors Corporation, has been a proud sponsor of U.S. Soccer, the U.S. Youth Soccer Association and state soccer associations since 1997.
U.S. Soccer’s All-Time Chevrolet Athlete of the Year Award Winners