U.S. Soccer’s Male and Female Athletes of the Year awards are the oldest and most prestigious awards of their kind, dating back to 1984 for the Men and 1985 for the Women. The finalists for each award were nominated on the basis of: a) competing and excelling at the highest level (both at the National Team and professional level) during the calendar year; b) exhibiting decorum on and off the field which reflects well on U.S. Soccer; and c) contributing toward the growth, development, credibility and popularization of soccer in the USA.
The five finalists for the female award are listed below in alphabetical order:
U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year Candidates
Shannon Boxx, Midfielder
The defensive midfielder played a key role in the USA’s streak of shutouts in 2005, expertly patrolling the space in front of the back four while serving as a key fulcrum in the U.S. attack. She is a world-class ball-winner in the midfield and rarely does a player leave a confrontation with Boxx in possession of the ball or without a bruise. Her ability with the ball at her feet is world-class as well. She scored one goal in 2005, that coming against Iceland in a 3-0 win, and her ability to place precise passes from sideline-to-sideline and dribble out of tight spaces in the midfield played a major role in the U.S. scoring 24 goals in nine matches. Boxx started all nine of those games and played all but 77 minutes during the year. Her consistency and toughness into the tackle were key factors in helping the U.S. shut out the likes of France, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Canada and Australia during the year.
Kristine Lilly, Midfielder
The USA’s captain had another remarkably productive and consistent year as she pumped up her world-record cap total to 299. Lilly scored four times with two assists, including two goals in a huge 4-0 win against Denmark at the 2005 Algarve Cup that sent the USA to the championship game. One of those goals came directly off a corner kick. She also scored against Ukraine and Mexico, upping her career international goals total to 104. She started all eight matches in which she played and was on the field for all but 34 minutes. As she has her entire career, Lilly showed her amazing versatility, playing outside left midfielder, forward and attacking midfield at different times during the year. Her nomination for U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year in 2005 underscores her amazing consistency.
Kate Markgraf, Defender
In a year that saw the U.S. women not allow a single goal, Markgraf was the rock in the back, starting every game and playing every minute. With the retirement of legendary defender Joy Fawcett, Markgraf became the leader of the U.S. defense in 2005 and was a consistent force on a back line that featured several combinations of players over the year. Her impact on the team was such that she captained the USA against Iceland in the one match this year missed by Kristine Lilly, marking the first time she has worn the armband in the United States. The least-capped starter on the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup championship team, she has developed into one of the USA’s all-time greatest defenders and her superior ball-winning skills in the air and on the ground were on display in all nine games for the USA in 2005.
Hope Solo, Goalkeeper
In a breakout year for Solo, she started seven of the nine matches the U.S. played and earned shutouts in all, tripling her career shutout totals. She had a fantastic tournament at the Algarve Cup in Portugal, making several key saves to keep Finland scoreless, and owned her penalty area in the second half of the championship match as Germany attacked relentlessly to no avail. She also shutout Denmark, Canada, Iceland, Australia and Mexico. She became the first goalkeeper in U.S. history to not allow a goal in a calendar year while playing in six or more matches. In addition, her ability to distribute with her hands and world-class kicking game added a new dimension to the U.S. attack. She came out of her goal to bravely defuse more than a few dangerous opportunities during her seven games in the net, plays that were important factors in the USA’s shutout streak. Her personal streak of shutout minutes now stands at 639.
Christie Welsh, Forward
The USA’s leading scorer in 2005, she tallied seven times in her nine matches, with one assist. Welsh was the leading scorer at the prestigious 2005 Algarve Cup in Portugal, scoring in all four matches including the game-winner in a dramatic 1-0 win over Germany in the championship game. She also scored the game-winner against France in a 1-0 victory to open the tournament, followed that up with two goals against Finland and also tallied against Denmark. The five-foot-10 forward earned her success through hard running and keen finishing, starting all nine games for the USA during the year – scoring in her first six – in her first stint as a consistent starter.