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U.S. Soccer Wire: U.S. Soccer Announces First Annual "Best Of..." Award Finalists, Will Name 2002 Chevy Athlete of the Year Candidates This Week


FINALISTS FOR 2002 CHEVY ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AWARDS TO BE NAMED THIS WEEK: Following on the heels of its first ever “Best of…” awards series, 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 – this week. 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 third straight year, fan votes (along with a media vote) will decide the winner. Online voting will begin at www.ussoccer.com on Friday (Dec. 13) and run through Jan. 8. All of the Chevy awards are based on competing and excelling at the highest level of soccer offered by U.S. Soccer and the professional level for the calendar year, exhibiting decorum on and off the field which reflects well on U.S. Soccer, and contributing toward soccer’s popularization, acceptance and credibility in the United States. To qualify for the youth award, a player must have appeared in at least one U.S. Youth National Team game during the calendar year (and cannot have previously won the award).

ONLINE VOTING NOW UNDERWAY FOR 2002 “BEST OF U.S. SOCCER” AWARDS: For the first time in the Federation’s history, U.S. Soccer has created a series of 10 awards that will honor the standout performances of the calendar year in American soccer and make up the first annual U.S. Soccer “Best of…” Series. With the help of U.S. National Team coaches Bruce Arena and April Heinrichs, U.S. Soccer selected the finalists for each of these first-time awards and announced them across last week. Now it’s up to fans to make their voice heard with a vote in one or all of these unique, inaugural awards over the next month at www.ussoccer.com. Online voting for the awards began on Dec. 6 and will continue through Dec. 31. 

BEHIND-THE-SCENES DOCUMENTARY “OUR WAY” MAKES PERFECT 2002 HOLIDAY GIFT: One of the most memorable sports stories of 2002 is now available on a special limited edition DVD just in time for the Holiday season, as U.S. Soccer has unveiled "Our Way: The Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Story of the USA's 2002 World Cup Journey.” “Our Way” gives fans the chance to relive virtually every key moment along the team’s historic run to the quarterfinals, from the moment they stepped off the plane to intense security in Seoul, to the unforgettable bus ride back to the hotel in which they cranked the volume of the onboard karaoke machine and served up their own version of Sinatra’s classic tune. Fans can go inside the U.S. locker room, team meetings and training sessions to witness the unique blend of talent, character, and determination that symbolized the U.S. performance in Korea. As well as highlights from all five matches, special interviews and never-before-seen exclusive footage, fans also get hilarious Outtakes and a Memorable Moments Highlight Reel (including all U.S. goals) for a total of 70 minutes of action. The VHS version comes out on Wednesday (Dec. 11), with the DVD following on Dec. 16. Both are priced at $30 and are available for pre-order at www.ussoccerstore.com.

– U.S. MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM UPDATE –

U.S. MEN TO FACE CANADA IN OPENING MATCH OF 2003 IN FT. LAUDERDALE: The U.S. Men’s National Team will open 2003 with an international match against Canada at Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on Saturday, Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET. The match against Canada is a rematch of the team’s 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal clash on January 30 in Pasadena, Calif., which was won by the U.S. in penalty kicks after a well-played 0-0 draw. In their history, the U.S. and Canada have squared off against each other 25 times in a rivalry dating all the way back to 1925, with the U.S. holding a slight 9-8-8 advantage.  However, the United States has not lost to Canada in nine consecutive games, compiling a 5-0-4 mark in a stretch dating back more than 17 years to a 2-0 loss in Vancouver on April 2, 1985. Tickets ranging in price levels from $17 to $40 go on sale starting Saturday, Dec. 7, at 10 a.m. ET at all South Florida Ticketmaster outlets (including FYE, Spec’s Music and Ricky’s Records) or by phone (Ft. Lauderdale: 954-523-3309; Miami: 305-358-5885; West Palm Beach: 561-966-3309).

– U.S. WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM UPDATE –

U.S. WNT TO OPEN ROAD TO 2003 WWC VS. JAPAN ON JAN. 12 AT TORERO STADIUM: The U.S. Women's National Team will open its 2003 schedule with a match against Japan on January 12, 2003, at Torero Stadium in San Diego, Calif.  The match, which will kick off at 1 p.m. PT, will represent the USA’s first game in its run to the 2003 Women’s World Cup in China. Tickets ranging in price levels from $20 to $45 are currently on sale at all Southern California TicketMaster outlets (including Robinson’s-May and Wherehouse Music), by phone at 619-220-8497 and online at www.ussoccer.com.  Additionally, less than 100 VIP field-level seats at $150 each, where ticket holders get to keep their chair, will also go on sale at this time.  It will be the first of approximately 12 matches the USA will play before the 2003 Women’s World Cup. While the U.S. women have trained extensively at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, located just north of the U.S.-Mexican border in Chula Vista, Calif., this will be the first full international for the USA in San Diego.  Torero Stadium, which seats 7,035, is the home of the Spirit in the WUSA and has undergone two phases of renovations to become one of the top soccer venues on the West Coast.  The match against Japan is just the first part of a trip that will take the U.S. women to China for a major tournament at the end of January. The U.S. team will be coming off two months of rest after dominating the 2002 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup in late October and early November, winning its fifth regional title and earning a berth to the 2003 Women’s World Cup with its 7-0 semifinal victory over Costa Rica. The U.S. women are 13-0-1 all-time versus Japan and have never lost a match in California, going 12-0-1 dating back to 1996.

U.S. WOMEN TO COMPETE IN PRESTIGIOUS ALGARVE CUP IN PORTUGAL IN MARCH 2003: The U.S. Women's National Team will travel to Portugal in March 2003 to compete in the prestigious Algarve Cup for the eighth time.  The USA has been placed in Group A with Canada, Sweden and France, all of whom have qualified for the 2003 Women's World Cup in China.  The Algarve Cup, already the world's most competitive women's international event outside of the Women's World Cup, the Olympics and the European Championships, will take on an added significance this March as it will be the last major international tournament before the Women's World Cup.  Group B will feature China, Norway, Denmark and Finland.  After round-robin group play, the winners of Groups A and B will meet for the championship.  The USA has won the tournament just once, that coming in 2000 when the Americans defeated Norway, 1-0, in the championship game on a Brandi Chastain penalty kick.  While the final game schedule has not been set, the USA will play group matches on March 14, 16 and 18 and a placement game on March 20.  This will be the 10th staging of the event and just the second year that the Algarve Cup, which was previously an eight-team tournament, will feature 12 teams.  Group C, which does not have a chance to play for the title, features Wales, Greece, Portugal and a team to be determined.  A detailed schedule with dates, venues and times will be announced closer to the tournament.

– YOUTH NATIONAL TEAMS UPDATE –

PROJECT-40 ENDS FOREIGN TOUR WITH TWO WINS AND A DRAW IN HOLLAND: The Nike Project-40 team rebounded from losses in their first three matches with two wins and a draw in the second leg of their annual fall foreign tour, which pitted them against reserve teams from the German Bundesliga and Dutch Honor Division. The P-40’s started off last week with a 2-1 win over the FC Utrecht reserves, with defender Eddie Robinson scoring in the 7th minute and forward Luchi Gonzalez adding another in the 24th minute. Gonzalez went on a rampage in the next match, notching a hat trick in a 3-2 win over the Volendam reserves on Dec. 5. The Columbus Crew striker scored in the 44th and 61st minute and then with the game tied at 2-2, provided the game winner in the 78th minute for the Pro-40’s second win of the trip. After falling 4-0 to PSV Eindhoven reserves in their first meeting on Nov. 28, Pro-40 squad was the better team in the rematch but could only muster a 1-1 tie. Galaxy forward Gavin Glinton scored the lone goal in the 51st minute and the P-40s outshot PSV 8-5, but an Eindohoven goal in the 61st minute stopped them short of a third consecutive win. The Pro-40s began the trip against the reserve teams from a pair of German Bundesliga clubs, falling 2-1 to both Borussia Monchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund.

SPLIT U-17 TEAMS POST 5-0-1 MARK AT U.S. SOCCER/NIKE FRIENDLIES IN FLORIDA: The U.S. Under-17 MNT, which was split into two squads (an older team made up primarily of players born in 1986 and a younger team made up primarily of players born in 1987) for the second annual U.S. Soccer/Nike friendlies, posted an undefeated 5-0-1 mark and five shutouts at the event this weekend. The older U.S. Under-17 squad began play by dominating the Colorado Rush, but it took a late free kick goal by Guillermo Gonzalez to earn a 3-3 draw. In their second match, the older U-17s scored three goals in the first 15 minutes and went on to a 4-0 win against the Houston Texans. Yesterday, they put together a 5-0 win over the Bethesda Alliance. Ten of the team’s 12 goals have come from the trio of Gonzalez (3), forward Mike Harrington (2) and Jacob Peterson (4), with defender Corey Ashe adding two of his own in the last match. The younger U.S. Under-17s got their weekend off on the right foot with a 2-0 win over defending National Champions Atlanta Fire with goals from Freddy Adu and Jamie Watson. Adu and Watson also scored, as did Danny Szetela, in the team’s second match, a 3-0 win over FC Delco. Adu scored his third goal of the weekend yesterday in a 2-0 win over the Dallas Texans, with Christian Jimenez adding another. The younger U.S. team will wrap up play in the Friendlies today with a game against the Under-17 Houston Texans at 1 p.m., following the older U.S. squad’s 11 a.m. match against the 2001 National Champion Sockers FC.

U-15 BOYS STAY UNBEATEN WITH 4-0 WIN, FINISH FIRST CAMP WITH 3-0-1 RECORD: In their first official games since replacing the U-16 Boys program, the U.S. Under-15 Boys National Team finished the U.S. Youth Soccer ODP Thanksgiving Inter-Regional event with a 4-0 win over Region IV and improved their undefeated record to 3-0-1 in Cocoa Beach last week. Four different players – Mark Halma (Des Moines, Iowa), Quavas Kirk (Aurora, Ill.), Blake Wagner (Tampa, Fla.) and Daniel Ortega (Chula Vista, Calif.) -- scored in the final match, meaning a total of 10 players were responsible for the team’s 12 goals.

– AROUND THE SOCCER NATION –

PORTLAND CLAIMS FIRST NCAA WOMEN’S SOCCER TITLE WITH 2-0 OVERTIME WIN: The University of Portland captured their first ever NCAA Div. I women’s soccer title yesterday, downing defending champion Santa Clara 2-1 in overtime of the Women’s College Cup final in front of 10,027 fans at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas. After shutting out U-21 WNT forward Christie Welsh and Penn State 2-0 in the semi-final, the #9-ranked Pilots got two goals from super-striker Christine Sinclair, including the golden goal in the 104th minute, to edge the Lady Broncos. Below are the results from the Final Four of the NCAA Women’s College Cup.

U.S. SOCCER SPOTLIGHT

PEAK PERFORMER: Portland forward Christine Sinclair just can’t be stopped. The Canadian Women’s National Team striker scored both of her team’s goals in the final, including the game winner, giving her 10 goals (of the team’s 12) in the Pilots’ five College Cup matches. Her whopping 26 goals on the year were enough to put her in a tie with North Texas' Marilyn Marin for the Div. I scoring mark.

MARQUEE MATCH-UP: With the 2002 NCAA Div. I Men’s College Cup now down to the Final Four, the most anticipated match of the weekend may not be the final, but rather the semi-final clash between #2 Maryland and #4 UCLA on Friday (Dec. 13). Both teams had little trouble advancing out of the Elite Eight, as UCLA crushed Penn State 7-1 and Maryland cruised by Connecticut, 3-0. A pair of upstarts -- #11 Creighton and #15 Stanford – will square off in the first semifinal (live on ESPN2 at 5 p.m. ET).

SOCCER SHOCKER: With their second consecutive Final Four loss (both at the hands of Santa Clara, it marks the first time in over 20 years that North Carolina has gone more than a year between national championships and serves as further proof that the gap between UNC and the other top women’s soccer programs has been eradicated. After winning 12 of the first 13 NCAA titles, the Lady Tarheels have won just four of the last eight championships.

QUOTABLE:
“To be honest, I couldn't be happier for Clive. If we can't be the national champions, I would want my good friend Clive Charles and Portland to be champions. It's too bad it had to be against us, but it's long-deserved.''
- Santa Clara and U.S. U-21 WNT head coach Jerry Smith, on perennial bridesmaid Portland finally winning their first women’s soccer championship

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