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 male award are listed below in alphabetical order:
DaMarcus Beasley, Midfielder
The high-flying midfield speedster had an outstanding year in the production department, posting career highs for both goals (4) and assists (4). A key figure in the USA’s World Cup qualifying campaign, Beasley scored what is the presumptive favorite for Goal of the Year in the game that mattered most, the 2-0 victory against Mexico that booked the USA’s passage to Germany. With the team holding a 1-0 lead, Beasley started and finished a perfectly-executed short corner kick, receiving a perfectly slotted ball from U.S. captain from Claudio Reyna, collecting the ball about eight yards out and curling a left-footed shot over the outstretched arm of Mexican ‘keeper Oswaldo Sanchez. “Beas” also had a banner year at PSV Eindhoven, scoring 12 goals in competitions while becoming the first American ever to play in the semifinals of the prestigious UEFA Champions League.
Steve Cherundolo, Defender
2005 may well be the year that Steve Cherundolo finally staked his claim as the starting right back for the MNT. Combining consistency with composure, Cherundolo displayed poise on the ball and guile in his man-marking abilities as part of a U.S. defense that surrendered only 11 goals in 19 matches. Appearing in a career-high nine matches for a single year, his only point in 2005 was a critical one. He delivered a pinpoint cross to Eddie Johnson that culminated in the first goal of the USA’s 2-1 victory in Trinidad, giving the side a huge three points on the road to open the final round hexagonal. He went the distance in the USA’s first five qualifiers of the year, before a knee injury in the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup sidelined him for the rest of the campaign. Serving as vice-captain for Hannover of the German Bundesliga – a position voted on by the players – Cherundolo has been a mainstay in their backline and one of the big reasons for their continued presence in Germany’s top flight.
Landon Donovan, Midfielder
The USA’s engine in the attack, Donovan finished as the team leader in every statistical category that counts. The two-time Player of the Year proved a model of consistent productivity, registering a goal or an assist in eight of 12 games he started in 2005. He posted a career-high six assists to go along with an equal number of goals, moving into third place on the USA’s all-time scoring chart (25 goals) and second place on the assist list (20), all at the ripe old age of 23. Donovan got it done in qualifying as well, leading the team in points and minutes played. He twice recorded multiple-goal games, including the 3-0 World Cup qualifying victory against Costa Rica on June 4 in Salt Lake City. Returning to MLS as a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy, the two-time MLS Cup champion spearheaded the Galaxy’s run to the MLS Cup final with two goals in the semifinals.
Kasey Keller, Goalkeeper
Keller was nothing short of giant in the goal for the U.S. in 2005, his calming leadership presence only equaled by his impressive collection of world-caliber saves. With a total of eight shutouts in 13 games, he led the U.S. on a shutout run of 639 minutes that spanned seven World Cup qualifiers. He recorded five shutouts in seven qualifiers on the year, adding another record to a resume that already includes all-time U.S. bests for wins (50), shutouts (44), and World Cup qualifying appearances (31). While others got their names on the scoresheet, it was Keller who came up with two huge saves to keep Costa Rica off the board on June 4 in Salt Lake City. Four days later against Panama, he one-upped his own performance by making a string of three miraculous saves in succession that preserved the USA’s shutout road win while instantly becoming a part of U.S. goalkeeping lore. After playing every minute of every game for two years at Tottenham Hotspur, he made the jump to Borussia Moenchengladbach where he was largely credit for saving their season and their place in the Bundesliga.
Oguchi Onyewu, Defender
With the body of a linebacker and the heart of a lion, Onyewu enjoyed a coming out party in 2005 as a key member of the U.S. backline. Adding deft ball skills to an imposing presence, Onyewu is quickly picking up the intricacies of orchestrating a defense at the international level. Surpassing double digits in caps, his most memorable performance came when it mattered most. Combining with partner Gregg Berhalter, the duo shut down Mexican striker Jared Borgetti and the rest of the Mexican attack in the USA’s World Cup clincher Sept. 3 in Columbus. He also made his presence known in the attacking end that day, getting his head on the Eddie Lewis free kick that ‘keeper Oswaldo Sanchez blocked into the path of Steve Ralston for the game-winning goal. Gooch got it done on his own in the Gold Cup semifinal, smacking home yet another header in the 92nd minute against Honduras to catapult the U.S. into the final where they would go on to earn the championship trophy.