CHICAGO (Thursday, December 5, 2002) - For the first time in its history, the U.S. Soccer Federation 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 head coaches Bruce Arena and April Heinrichs, U.S. Soccer has selected the finalists for each of these first-time awards. 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. Official online voting for the awards will begin tomorrow (Dec. 6) and continue through Dec. 31.
Following on the heels of the 2002 “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 -- next 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.
The final announcement of finalists for the 2002 Best of U.S. Soccer awards will be announced tomorrow. The following are the finalists for both Best Soccer Promotion and Best U.S. Goal:
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 that would make the legendary Bill Veeck smile--promos a little more original than just your standard Bobblehead Night.
1) “Buck-a-Brat Night” – various dates – Columbus Crew (MLS): This repeatedly successful promotion is one that the Crew run several times during the season, including the 2002 U.S. Open Cup Final on Oct. 24, in which all bratwursts are just $1 throughout the game.
2) “Pro-cuts Mohawk Challenge” – June 29 – Dallas Burn (MLS): With the MetroStars in town for a big Saturday night match following the U.S. World Cup Team’s return from Korea, the Dallas Burn did a promotion inviting fans to get their hair cut into a mohawk a la U.S. bad boy Clint Mathis. A total of 15 barbers from ProCuts were there to service the throng of fans, but had to stop at 100 because the game was beginning. All those who got their hair cut received two free tickets to match, were invited to be a part of the pre-game tunnel, and received an autograph from Mathis after the game.
3) “Thirsty Thursday” – Aug. 8 – Minnesota Thunder (A-League): This promotion was about as successful as they come, with beers discounted to $1 for the 10-minute period after every Thunder goal. On this night, that discount almost stretched throughout the entire game, as Minnesota poured in eight goals on the Indiana Blast in front of a very appreciative crowd.
4) “Tony Sanneh Night” – June 22 – Milwaukee Rampage (A-League): Celebrating the success of former Rampage stars Brian McBride and Tony Sanneh following the World Cup, the Milwaukee A-League franchise offered fans ages 4-18 a chance to recreate the stunning opening goal versus Portugal in which Sanneh sent a perfect looping cross from the right flank to McBride, who dove to head it home. At halftime, Sanneh crossed balls into a number of fans, with a few pulling out the diving header to find the net.
5) “Twins Mania Night” – April 26 – Atlanta Beat (WUSA): In an effort to acknowledge the first time in the history of pro sports that two sets of twins faced each other, the Atlanta Beat created this promotion as their own Nancy and Julie Augustyniak faced Skylar and Jacqui Little of the Washington Freedom. A total of 70 sets of twins (and even a few sets of triplets) gained free admission and participated in a special, three-legged soccer mini-match at halftime. Additionally, Beat fans that dressed identical to another fan received special discounted tickets to the game and sat in the designated Doubles District for the match.
BEST U.S. GOAL: This award goes to the best goal scored by a U.S. National Team player – including the full and all youth levels – in an international match played this year. But aside from being a spectacular goal from the technical angle, the importance of the match in which it was scored weighed heavily on the five finalists, which are listed in chronological order:
1) Brian McBride (MNT) – June 5 vs. Portugal: This goal was as climactic as it was surprising, as it was the third goal that the U.S. had scored in the first half on the way to a shocking 3-2 win over Portugal in the USA’s first World Cup match. Tony Sanneh started the play on the right flank, charging along the touchline before measuring a perfect cross that found an onrushing Brian McBride, who slipped between two Portugal defenders and finished a perfect diving header to make it 3-0 in the 36th minute.
2) Clint Mathis (MNT) – June 10 vs. Korea: Starting and playing in the first World Cup match of his career, Mathis made the best of one of the few scoring chances the U.S. created against a swarming and relentless Korean team buoyed by a boisterous sold-out home crowd. The mohawked one took a clever looping assist from midfielder John O’Brien out of the air with his right foot and with a quick next touch slammed the ball past goalkeeper Woon Jae Lee with his left foot to give the U.S. a crucial 1-0 lead in the 24th minute of their second match, which ended in a 1-1 tie.
3) Brian McBride (MNT) – June 17 vs. Mexico: Perhaps the best passing sequence that the U.S. put together that resulted in a goal, the play started with captain Claudio Reyna flying down the right flank after the U.S. gained possession in the midfield. Reyna dribbled to the end line and sent a square ball along the line to Josh Wolff, who quickly touched the ball back to McBride in the middle of the box. McBride wound up and cracked a shot that found its way through the goal-mouth traffic of two defenders and the Mexican keeper to give the U.S. the eventual game-winning goal in the 8th minute on the way to a historic 2-0 win over Mexico in the Round of 16.
4) Landon Donovan (MNT) – June 17 vs. Mexico: Yet another clinical finish, this goal was almost identical to Sanneh’s perfect cross and McBride’s easy finish in the win over Portugal, just from the other side of the field. Midfielder Eddie Lewis gained the ball on the left flank, and dribbled almost a third of the field before cranking one of his trademark left-footed crosses to the back post, where Landon Donovan snuck in behind two Mexico defenders and headed the ball home in the 65th minute to make it 2-0 and shut the door on the USA’s biggest rival.
5) Lindsay Tarpley (U-19 WNT) – Sept. 1 vs. Canada: It wasn’t the prettiest of goals, but Lindsay Tarpley’s game-winning goal that beat Canada 1-0 in overtime and delivered the first ever U-19 Women’s World Youth Championship in front of 47,784 fans in Edmonton, Alberta, will long be remembered. Overtime sub Megan Kakadelas curved in a cross that was kept alive by a darting Heather O’Reilly, who crashed into a defender on a hard near post run. The ball squirted across the goalmouth to the cutting Tarpley, but she had her first shot attempt blocked. The ball somehow bounced behind the defender as Tarpley went into the tackle and the U.S. captain pounded her second shot into the net from close range to end the game.
6) Tiffeny Milbrett (WNT) – Nov. 9 vs. Canada: This goal came as many of the U.S. goals did in the 2002 Women's Gold Cup, from the foot of Aly Wagner, who played a ball in the path of Kristine Lilly on the left wing. Lilly dribbled right at Candace Chapman, perhaps Canada's fastest player, beating her to the outside and creating enough room to whip a cross into the middle. Milbrett was lurking behind defender Silvana Burtini at the top of the six-yard box, but timed her run perfectly to dart in front of the Canadian left back and hit a stunning first time volley with her left foot, sending the ball rocketing over goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc and into the roof of the net to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead in the Women's Gold Cup Final.
7) Mia Hamm (WNT) – Nov. 9 vs. Canada: The U.S. Women's National Team's game-winning overtime goal in the championship match of the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup was as beautiful as it was stunning and shocking. In intercepting a goal kick from Canadian goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, the U.S. took just two touches to traverse 45 yards and quickly destroy Canada's upset hopes. Aly Wagner started the 94th minute overtime winner with a deft header off the goal kick that dropped perfectly onto an on-rushing Mia Hamm. While holding off Canadian defender Breanna Boyd and gauging the position of LeBlanc, Hamm scored her 136th international goal from 18 yards out with a perfectly weighted one-touch, half-volley chip over the stunned Canadian goalkeeper.
Remaining 2002 Best of U.S. Soccer Award Schedule
Dec. 6: Best U.S. Performance (Player)
Best U.S. Performance (Team)