Thursday - Tournament Performance of the Year
Today, Dec. 22, marks the fourth day of our 2016 U.S. Soccer "Best of" Awards. UPDATE: The U.S. Women's National Team performance at the SheBelieves Cup takes the prize as U.S. Soccer's Best Tournament Performance of 2016. Check back tomorrow for the final "Best of" U.S. Soccer Award!
WNT – SheBelieves Cup
In March, instead of attending the Algarve Cup, a long-standing tournament on the USA’s spring schedule, the U.S. Women’s National Team hosted the SheBelieves Cup, a tournament that featured four of the top teams in the world. On March 3, the WNT kicked off the elite competition with a rousing win against England on a brilliant strike from Crystal Dunn and followed that up on March 6 with dramatic second-half stoppage-time goal from Alex Morgan to defeat France 1-0 in front of a record-crowd in Nashville, Tennessee. The USA then came from behind to defeat the world’s second-ranked team, Germany, 2-1, on March 9 on goals from Morgan and Samantha Mewis to win the inaugural tournament. The SheBelieves Cup, like most world-class competitions, featured slim margins of victory or defeat where just one goal or one save could make difference. This proved especially true for the USA who rode its rock-solid defense and several world class finishes to win three games by one goal and claim the title.
MNT – Copa America Centenario
As hosts of the biggest international tournament on U.S. soil since the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the U.S. MNT lived up to the moment, taking an impressive fourth-place finish at this summer’s Copa America Centenario. After a setback in the tournament opener against Colombia, the U.S. bravely rebounded, using goals from Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood and Graham Zusi to earn a 4-0 victory against Costa Rica. Playing down a man after DeAndre Yedlin’s second-half sending off, the U.S. gutted out a 1-0 win against Paraguay to finish atop the group and set up a Quarterfinal clash with Ecuador. Playing at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, the U.S. got goals from Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes and again banded together after Jones was sent off to gain a 2-1 victory against La Tricolor. Making the tournament Semifinal for the first time since 1995, the team finally met its match in a 4-0 defeat to Argentina and fought hard in the Third Place Game, before eventually falling 1-0 to Colombia.
U-17 MNT – Nike International Friendlies
The U-17 MNT capped a fantastic year by lifting its first Nike International Friendlies title since 2013. Utilizing a hat trick from captain Josh Sargent and brace from Andrew Carleton, John Hackworth’s side began the tournament with an impressive 7-1 rout of Portugal. Two days later, Carleton was on the mark twice more, leading the comeback before Ayo Akinola also added a double in a 5-1 win against Turkey. Needing just a draw against Brazil to clinch the tournament title, Akinola put the U.S. ahead just prior to halftime, Sargent added a second just after the break and Timothy Weah added a stoppage time strike as the U-17 MNT ran out 3-0 winners and 2016 Nike International Friendlies champions.
U-19 MNT – Slovakia Cup
Under the direction of head coach Brad Friedel, the U-19 MNT began 2016 with a tournament title of its own, winning the Slovakia Cup in April. Friedel’s side received goals from five different players in a 5-1 win vs. Georgia to open the tournament, before Weston McKennie lifted the team to a narrow 2-1 win against Ukraine. Despite losing 3-1 to hosts Slovakia in the final group game, the U.S. still earned its place in the Final against Russia where Brandon Vazquez provided assists to Nelson Hunsinger and Pierre Da Silva to push the U-19 MNT to a 2-1 comeback victory.
U-20 WNT – FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup
The 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup was held in the exotic locale of Papua New Guinea and featured a U.S. team that displayed a tremendous amount of grit, teamwork and opportune goal scoring to win the most difficult group of the tournament by the slimmest of margins. The USA took the top spot in Group C by winning the Fair Play tie-breaker after finishing even on all the other tie-breakers with France. The USA came from behind three times in the tournament to equalize matches. In group play, the USA drew 0-0 with eventual runners-up France, notched a 3-1 victory against New Zealand and earned a come-from-behind 1-1 draw with Ghana. In the quarterfinal against Mexico, the USA came from behind to score twice in the final minutes to win 2-1. In the semifinal against eventual champion Korea DRP, the USA tied the game late on a goal from Natalie Jacobs before bowing 2-1 in overtime. In the third-place match, the USA held off a supremely talented Japan before falling 1-0 on a late goal.
U-17 WNT – CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship – U-17 Women’s World Cup Qualifying
The USA put in a dominating performance at the 2016 CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship in Grenada, winning all five games by an 18-2 margin to earn a berth to the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan and take the regional title. The USA opened with an 8-1 win against Jamaica, which saw Frankie Tagliaferri come off the bench in the 70th minute to score four consecutive goals. The USA then defeated a talented Mexico team 1-0 on a goal from Ashley Sanchez before downing Costa Rica 2-0 to win the group, which set up a semifinal match with Canada for a spot in Jordan. The USA blew out Canada 5-0 as five different players scored and then defeated Mexico to take the regional title, 2-1, on a late goal from Civana Kuhlmann, who scored three times in the tournament. Ashley Sanchez won the Golden Ball as the best player in the tournament and Laurel Ivory won the Golden Glove as the top goalkeeper. The USA placed seven players on the Best XI.
U-15 GNT – CONCACAF U-15 Girls’ Championship
The USA ran over the competition at the 2016 CONCACAF U-15 Girls’ Championship that was held in Orlando, Fla. The USA won all seven of its matches by a 49-0 margin, opening with a 22-0 victory against Trinidad & Tobago. The USA then defeated Mexico and Haiti by tight 1-0 scores before winning the group with a 6-0 win against the Dominican Republic. In the quarterfinal, the USA defeated Bermuda 12-0, won it’s semifinal 5-0 against Costa Rica and then defeated Canada, 2-0, to win the tournament on goals from Kalyssa Van Zanten and Samantha Meza. Mia Fishel, who scored seven times, won the Golden Ball as the Best Player in the tournament while Payton Linnehan won the Golden Boot with eight goals. Gabrielle Robinson also had eight scores. Ruth Jones won the Golden Glove as the top goalkeeper. The USA played six payers on the tournament Best XI. The tournament marked the second time a CONCACAF championship had been held for this age group and the first time the USA participated.