CHICAGO (Wednesday, December 22, 2004) – U.S. Soccer announced today the 2004 winners of the increasingly popular “Best of U.S. Soccer” awards after a month of fans voting online at ussoccer.com, where people had a chance to vote for one or all of the 11 categories once a day from Nov. 19-Dec. 17.
With an historic year that included tears of joy from a dramatic overtime Olympic gold medal finish and tears of sadness from the retirement of a trio of legends, the U.S. Women’s National Team deservedly earned a whopping eight of the 11 awards.
|Best U.S. Soccer Story: Retiring Veterans|
The retirement of Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm after amazing 18-year careers that included two Women’s World Cup championships and two Olympic gold medals was the obvious favorite to win, and do so with a sizeable 41 percent of the vote. Their storybook ending in Athens was second with 32 percent of the vote. The Men’s National Team’s year of late-game heroics that helped them to an impressive 8-1-6 record and qualified them for the final round of 2006 FIFA World Cup Qualifying finished a distant third with 10 percent, but that story continues in 2005.
|Best Fashion Statement: Gold Medals & Wreaths|
|In the third and final new award for 2004, the gold medals and Olympic wreaths won by the U.S. Women’s National Team on the podium in Athens, Greece, won Best Fashion Statement, edging out Abby Wambach’s gold Nike Mercurial Vapors and U.S. MNT midfielder DaMarcus Beasley’s signature diamond-encrusted “7” necklace.|
|Best U.S. Soccer Fans: Sam's Army in Foxboro|
Best Soccer Fans went to the Sam’s Army contingent that packed the North Stands in Foxboro, Mass., for the U.S. Men's first home qualifier of the semifinal round, a 2-0 win over El Salvador on Sept. 4.
|Best U.S. Soccer Goal: Wambach vs. Iceland|
The final two awards won by the U.S. Women came after the Olympics on the 10-game “Fan Celebration Tour,” including Best Goal. It came in the second game on the tour, a 3-0 win over Iceland on Sept. 29, when Abby Wambach, the only U.S. player in the offensive half of the field, gathered a pass, flicked it over two defenders at her back and then hit a 22-yard looping blast that shocked the opposing goalkeeper. Abby’s wonderful individual strike was in the top spot by just a hair with 31 percent, two percent ahead of Lindsay Tarpley’s rocket that gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead in the gold medal match.
|Best U.S. Soccer Assist: Hamm in Olympic Semifinal|
Hamm also won the first ever Best Assist award, appropriate for a player that finished her career with a ridiculous mark of 144. Her patented dribbling drive to the end line and precision pass through traffic that Heather O'Reilly deftly finished for the game-winning overtime goal in the Olympic semifinal over Germany on Aug. 23 barely beat out Kristine Lilly’s assist on Abby Wambach’s game-winning double overtime header by just two percentage points.
|Best Late-Game Heroics: Wambach's Gold-Medal Goal|
But although the Wambach goal lost out on the previous award, it was a shoe-in for the new Best Late-Game Heroics, beating out the O’Reilly goal and four worthy candidates from the Men’s National Team’s year of edge-of-your-seat finishes.
|Best Player Game Performance: Hamm vs. Germany|
|Best Game Performance (Player) went to perhaps the best women’s soccer player of all time. Mia Hamm's all-over-the-place performance and game-winning assist in the Olympic semifinal, which avenged last year's WWC loss to Germany and gave the team the chance to go out with gold, won with 39 percent of the vote.|
|Best Team Game Performance: WNT in Gold Medal Match|
The U.S. Women’s exhausting 120-minute performance to hold off a relentlessly attacking Brazilian team and gut out it out for a gold medal earned the Best Game Performance (Team) award with a whopping 55 percent of the vote, the largest majority of any of the awards. The U.S. Women’s equally intense semifinal win over Germany finished second, while the U.S. Men’s 6-0 rout of Panama in World Cup Qualifying was third
|Best U.S. Soccer Crowd: Rochester - Sept. 25|
|Wambach also helped create the Best U.S. Crowd, when half of her hometown of Rochester, N.Y., filled up every inch of Frontier Field to catch their local hero kick off the “Fan Celebration Tour” with a surprisingly close 4-3 last-minute win over Iceland on Sept. 25. With an all-time high stadium sell-out crowd of 14,780 screaming “Abby!” in unison and holding “Absolutely Abby” cards in their hands, it was an ideal kickoff to the successful tour.|
|Best U.S. Soccer Store: Soccer USA|
|Last year’s Best Soccer Store winner, Gotschalk’s Soccer (Boston, Mass.) got leapfrogged by Soccer Shack of Rochester, N.Y., and the local chain of Soccer USA stores in Austin, Texas, who won with 18 percent of the total vote.|
|Best U.S. Soccer Bar: Ginger's Ale House|
|Ginger’s Ale House of Chicago became the first back-to-back winner of any “Best of…” award when they received 19 percent of the vote to win this year’s Best Soccer Bar. The Brittania Arms of San Jose, Calif., finished second, just ahead of inaugural winner Summers Restaurant (Arlington, Va.).|