CHICAGO (Friday, December 6, 2002) - Voting for the first annual U.S. Soccer "Best ofâ€¦" Series begins today at 12 p.m. ET at ussoccer.com, where fans can vote once a day for one or all of the 10 inaugural awards until the deadline on Dec. 31.
Following on the heels of the 2002 â€œBest ofâ€¦â€ 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. Soccerâ€™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 ussoccer.com on Friday, Dec. 13 and run through Jan. 8.
The following are the finalists for both Best Game Performance, for both Player and Team:
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:
1) Brian McBride (MNT) â€“ June 5 vs. Portugal: McBride served a crucial role in the U.S. Menâ€™s National Teamâ€™s successful offensive game plan in the shocking 3-2 upset win over Portugal. His performance as a target man up top was invaluable for the U.S. attack. It was McBride who also provided the crucial third U.S. goal on the way to the monumental result, sneaking between two Portugal defender and laying out his body to head home a delicious Tony Sanneh cross for a surprising 3-0 lead.
2) Brad Friedel (MNT) â€“ June 10 vs. Korea: Friedel was â€œfrom Marsâ€ in this match, continually thwarting a seemingly relentless Korean attack. The 6â€™4â€ giant saved a penalty kick, made countless one-on-one stops and posted a total of seven saves, effectively entrenching him as the starting â€˜keeper for the remainder of the tournament.
3) Landon Donovan (MNT) â€“ June 17 vs. Mexico: Ever since scoring his first career international goal against Mexico back in 2000, Donovan has rose to the occasion when playing the Tricolores. This Round of 16 match was no different, as Landon was racing all over the offensive half of the field and pressuring their backline, retreating back on defense and finishing a superb Eddie Lewis cross in the 65th minute to put the game away 2-0 and punch a ticket to the quarterfinals.
4) Claudio Reyna (MNT) â€“ June 21 vs. Germany: Reyna was everywhere in the midfield in this match, doing much of the dirty work in the defensive end and getting forward in the attack as well. It was perhaps his most complete performance of the tournament, and especially gratifying that it came against former opponents from the German Bundesliga, where he began his international career.
5) Tony Sanneh (MNT) â€“ June 21 vs. Germany: Sanneh capped his impressive overall 2002 World Cup performance with his best single game effort, one that came against many of the players he faces week in and week out in the German Bundesliga. Sanneh was all over the fieldâ€”making crucial stops on defense, becoming a force on the flank in the attack, and serving as a dangerous target player on set pieces. Sanneh just missed tying the game in the waning moments, but the header he snapped toward goal ended up on the wrong side of the side netting.
6) Mia Hamm (WNT) â€“ Sept. 8 vs. Scotland: This was the match that proved beyond anything that, after missing about half of Year 2 of the WUSA with an injury, Mia Hamm was back. Facing a surprising 2-2 deadlock at halftime against Scotland, Mia put the team on her back and carried them to a 6-goal second half in which she scored two and assisted on three others. Added to the goal she scored in the first half, the worldâ€™s leading female scorer finished with an impressive three goals and three assists in the 8-2 blowout.
7) Tiffeny Milbrett (WNT) â€“ Nov. 2 vs. Panama: Having struggled against bunker defenses in its first two Womenâ€™s Gold Cup matches, Tiffeny Milbrett helped the U.S. Womenâ€™s National Team smash through the Panama wall over and over again, pouring in five goals (tying a team record) in just 35 minutes before leaving the game with an injury in the 56th minute. Tiff scored a natural hat trick in the first nine minutes alone and added another two before halftime to drive the U.S. to a 9-0 win and into the semis to play for a spot in the 2003 Womenâ€™s World Cup in China.
BEST GAME PERFORMANCE, TEAM: This award is for that game where a U.S. National Team 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 2002. Below are the seven final choices, listed in chronological order:
1) U.S. MNT 2, Costa Rica 0 â€“ Jan. 27: After posting solid results in advancing to the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final, the U.S. Menâ€™s National Team used a first-half goal from forward Josh Wolff and an exquisite Jeff Agoos free kick in the 63rd minute to defeat Costa Rica 2-0 at the Rose Bowl. It was the teamâ€™s first Gold Cup title since 1991, as they finished the tournament with an undefeated record of 4-0-1 and built crucial momentum for what would ultimately be the most successful year in MNT history.
2) U.S. MNT 3, Portugal 2 â€“ June 5: In perhaps the biggest upset in U.S. and possible even World Cup history, the U.S. Men shocked the world by scoring three goals in the first 36 minutes and then held their ground in a tense second-half battle to come out with a 3-2 win in their opening game in Korea, stealing three points and paving the way for the teamâ€™s trip to the second round.
3) U.S. MNT 2, Mexico 0 â€“ June 17: In the biggest match of the two teamâ€™s 79-year history, the U.S. Menâ€™s National Team got the best of its fiercest rival on the biggest stage possible. With a clinical finish from McBride in the 8th minute and a beautiful insurance goal from Donovan in the 65th minute, not to mention a defense that left Mexico in utter frustration, the U.S. earned a 2-0 shutout and advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in 72 years.
4) U.S. MNT 0, Germany 1 â€“ June 21: Even in defeat, it mightâ€™ve taken this superb effort against Germany to firmly establish the USAâ€™s standing as one of the Top 10 national teams in the world. Seen by most as the best overall 90 minutes that the U.S. played in the 2002 World Cup, they conceded just six shots and one goal against the highest-scoring offense in the tournament and created several excellent chances to score, including a Gregg Berhalter shot that beat Oliver Kahn but was prevented from crossing the goal line by a Torstsen Fringâ€™s forearm. Although it was a heart-breaking loss, the dramatic end-to-end battle proved to be one of the better matches of the tournament and left the U.S. team heading back to the States with heads held high.
5) U.S. WNT 4, Norway 0 â€“ July 21: Facing a team that is historically their toughest rival, not to mention a team that they hadnâ€™t defeated in the last four meetings dating back to the bitter 3-2 loss in the 2000 Olympic final, the U.S. team came together in the middle of the WUSA season to put a 4-0 blanking on Norway at the National Sports Center in Blaine, led by Cindy Parlowâ€™s two goals and one each from Tiffeny Milbrett and Mia Hamm.
6) U.S. U-19 WNT 1, Canada 0 (2OT) â€“ Sept. 1: Playing in front of a frenzied Canadian crowd of 47,784, the U-19 WNT held off the high-scoring host country and Golden Boot winner Christine Sinclair with rock solid defense and then pounced on a scoring chance in the 19th minute of sudden-death overtime to pull out a pressure-filled 1-0 result and walk away with the first ever FIFA Under-19 Womenâ€™s World Championship trophy.
7) U.S. WNT 2, Canada 1 (OT) â€“ Nov. 9: Although both the U.S. and a much-improved Canada had already earned automatic berths to the 2003 Womenâ€™s Gold Cup by virtue of advancing to this 2002 CONCACAF Womenâ€™s World Cup final, this game was an intense, hard-fought contest between two teams who have started to develop a rivalry almost as fierce as the U.S. Menâ€™s competitive relationship with Mexico. After 90 minutes of scoreless regulation play, Aly Wagner and Mia Hamm teamed to deliver the game winner in a flash in the fourth minute of overtime, giving the U.S. their fifth consecutive regional title and another piece of hardware in the already crowded trophy case.