CHICAGO (November 6, 2003) — U.S. Soccer has announced the finalists for the third set of its 11 year-end awards that honor the standout performances of the calendar year in American soccer and make up the second annual “Best of U.S. Soccer” Series.
With the help of U.S. National Team coaches Bruce Arena and April Heinrichs, U.S. Soccer has selected the finalists for these second-year awards. Now it’s up to fans to make their voice heard with a vote in one or all of these unique categories over the next month at ussoccer.com, where they’ll have a chance to win a variety of special prizes from Philips Electronics. Online voting for the awards will begin on Monday (Nov. 10) and continue through Tuesday, Dec. 9.
Best Soccer Promotion recognizes the best game promotion for the calendar year, with the Columbus Crew looking to earn back-to-back honors for the ever-popular “Buck-a-Brat Night.” Trying to dethrone them are unique promotions from the A-League’s Milwaukee Wave United, the PDL’s Des Moines Menace, the W-League’s Cincinnati Ladyhawks, as well as the U.S. Men’s National Team, whose unveiling of one-time retro jerseys to coincide with U.S. Soccer’s 90th Anniversary was an overwhelming success.
The Best Game Performance (Player) award goes to the best single-game performance by a U.S. National Team player, male or female, youth or full team, in 2003. The list of finalists includes standout performances from players in all four of the most important tournaments of the year, including the USA’s third-place finishes at the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup and the FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 2003.
The Best Game Performance (Team) award rewards the best single-game performance by a U.S. National Team, from the MNT to the WNT to one of the Youth National Teams, in 2003. The award recognizes the game where the team played out of their heads and rose to the occasion to deliver an outstanding -- or even unexpected -- result, with special consideration given to the important tournaments of the year.
As the voting for 2003 “Best of U.S. Soccer” awards series concludes, U.S. Soccer will announce the seven suggested candidates for each of the four annual Chevy Athlete of the Year awards: Young Female, Young Male, Female and Male.
As the oldest and most prestigious award of their kind, U.S. Soccer’s Chevy Athlete of the Year awards date back to 1984 for the men and 1985 for the women, with the winners of the two major awards receiving vehicles from Chevrolet. For the fourth straight year, fan votes (along with a media vote) will decide the winner. Online voting will begin at ussoccer.com in December and run through early January.
The announcement of finalists for each of the Best of U.S. Soccer 2003 awards will be staggered across this week according to the slighty altered schedule listed below:
2003 Best of U.S. Soccer Award Schedule
Tue., Nov. 4 Best U.S. Soccer Story
Best Soccer Bar
Best Soccer Store
Wed., Nov. 5 Best Soccer Stadium
Best Soccer Fans
Best U.S. Crowd
Thu., Nov. 6 Best Soccer Promotion
Best U.S. Performance (Player)
Best U.S. Performance (Team)
Fri., Nov. 7 Best U.S. Goal—Full National Team
Best U.S. Goal—Youth National Team
BEST SOCCER PROMOTION
As in any sport, sometimes it takes a dandy idea to get butts in seats for a weeknight game against a lackluster opponent. Below are five promotions (in alphabetical order) that are a little more original than your standard Bobblehead Night:
1) "Breast Cancer Awareness Day" – The W-League's Cincinnati Ladyhawks, in conjunction with the local Avon Breast Cancer Awareness Walk, wore special pink jerseys for the match, which were auctioned off to raise proceeds for the fund along with donations.
2) "Buck-a-Brat Night" – The Crew’s long-running promotion continues to be one of the biggest successes in all of soccer, with a BPP (brats per person) ratio still holding strong at just under 2.00.
3) "Happy Hour" – The A-League's Milwaukee Wave United made every home game a party by offering complimentary all-you-can-eat grilled specialties and beverages to all season ticket holders for the hour before kickoff for all 14 home games.
4) "Mother's Day Diamond Dig" – The PDL's Des Moines Menace held a halftime contest in which over 100 mothers had to dig through ice to be the fastest to find a tiny diamond, which was good for a $1,000 gift certificate to a local jeweler.
5) "Retro Jerseys" – On June 8 for a friendly versus New Zealand, the U.S. Men’s National Team unveiled one-of-a-kind retro uniforms modeled after those worn in a stunning 1-0 win over England at the 1950 World Cup as part of U.S. Soccer’s 90th anniversary.
BEST GAME PERFORMANCE (PLAYER)
This award goes to the one U.S. National Team player who took the team on his or her shoulders and put their respective team in position to win with their outstanding, if not dominating, individual performance. As with the award for Best Goal, the seven finalists were determined with special consideration given to the importance of the match in which the noteworthy performance occurred. Here are those seven finalists, listed in chronological order of the game in which said performance took place:
1) Tim Howard – Although it only showed up as five saves on the final scoresheet, the former MetroStars ‘keeper did much, much more to diffuse the relentless Brazilian attack in the opening round of the FIFA Confederations Cup in France, coming off his line to thwart breakaways and snare crosses and pushing free kicks over the crossbar to keep the game close. – U.S. MNT 0, Brazil 1 – June 21
2) Landon Donovan – Sure it was a lop-sided game against Cuba, but four goals is impressive any way you look at it. Some were just Landon being in the right place at the right time, others were all skill, but either way no one can discount the fact he possesses perhaps the best finishing touch of any forward in U.S. MNT history. – U.S. MNT 5, Cuba 0 – July 19
3) Freddy Adu – With the international soccer community curious to see if young Freddy would live up to the advance billing, Adu turned in an impressive three-goal performance to turn the match from a nail-biter into a walk in the park. Freddy’s reward? Bone-crunching tackles and continuous fouls for the rest of the tournament. – U-17 MNT 6, South Korea 1 – August 14
4) Kristine Lilly – As usual, Lilly brought her “A” game to the team’s Women’s World Cup opener, striking a powerful 20-yard volley to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute after almost scoring on a similar 30-yard blast in the 13th minute. Lilly was a midfield menace all day on both sides of the ball, ensuring that the U.S. got three points to start the tourney. – U.S. WNT 3, Sweden 1 – September 21
5) Mia Hamm – Mia quieted her past World Cup critics with a dominating performance in the team’s opening match, a dominant 3-1 win over eventual second place finisher Sweden. Hamm provided the final pass on all three goals, deftly laying a ball back to Kristine Lilly for the game’s first goal and then providing two perfect corner kicks that were headed home from point-blank range – U.S. WNT 3, Sweden 1 – September 21
6) Mia Hamm – Another dominant offensive performance from the red-hot Hamm, she provided the game’s first two goals with a penalty kick and a free kick before adding a trademark corner kick assist to make it 3-0 with another 40 minutes to play. – U.S. WNT 5, Nigeria 0 – September 25
7) Abby Wambach – Wambach was everywhere in the decisive 1-0 win over Norway in the quarterfinals, seemingly winning every ball in the air, constantly freeing herself in the box for snap headers and scoring the lone goal on a header off a Cat Reddick free kick in the 24th minute. – U.S. WNT 1, Norway 0 – October 11
BEST GAME PERFORMANCE (TEAM)
This award is for that game where a U.S. National Team (Men’s, Women’s or Youth) played out of their heads and rose to the occasion to deliver an outstanding -- or even unexpected -- result, with special consideration obviously given to important matches that were part of major tournaments in 2003. Below are the seven final choices in chronological order:
1) U.S. MNT 0, Brazil 1 -- 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup Opening Round – June 21:
Despite a fluke miscue that had the team down 1-0 in the 22nd minute, the U.S. battled back to even out play and posted perhaps its most complete performance of the difficult FIFA Confederations Cup and perhaps the entire calendar year.
2) U.S. MNT 3, Costa Rica 2 -- 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup Third Place Match – July 27:
While a second close loss to Brazil in as many months relegating them to the third place match led to a flat performance and a 2-1 deficit by halftime, the U.S. Men turned it on in the second stanza and delivered two sparkling second-half strikes to deliver the tournament’s bronze medal.
3) U.S. U-17 MNT 6, South Korea 1 -- 2003 FIFA U-17 WC Opener – August 14:
Up by just one goal despite dominating the first half, U.S. U-17 MNT head coach John Ellinger challenged the team to push themselves to the limit in the second half, resulting in a four unanswered goals that put the team in the driver’s seat in Group D play.
4) U.S. WNT 3, Sweden 1 -- 2003 FIFA WWC Opener – September 21:
Wanting to get the tournament off on the right foot against the sixth-ranked team in the world, the U.S. powered through their opponent and muscled its way to a 3-1 win on the strength of three assists from playmaking magician Mia Hamm and excellent play from the entire backline in shutting down the Swedish attacking duo of Hanna Ljunberg and Victoria Svensson.
5) U.S. WNT 3, North Korea 0 -- 2003 FIFA WWC Final Group D Match – September 28:
Though not needing a win to advance to the second round and win Group A, the U.S. Women were focused on sending a message to the rest of the teams with a full nine points out of the so-called “Group of Death.” The U.S. was fearless in attacking dark horse North Korea and rolled to a 3-0 win behind two goals from first-time WWC defender Cat Reddick.
6) U.S. WNT 3, Canada 1 – 2003 FIFA WWC Third Place Match – October 11:
Nursing the hangover of falling to Germany and falling short in their bid to repeat as WWC champs, the U.S. showed heart and got some added motivation from comments from the opposing team to come into L.A. and crush Canada 3-1 for third place.