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BASN’s 2013 Soccer Year in Review
(BASN-TALLAHASSEE, FL) Another big year in the realm of international football is coming to an end. Here’s what you missed while re-tweeting pictures of the broken leg from that UFC fight…
Altidore, Jozy- Awarded both The US Soccer Federation and Futbol Primera Player of the Year award , Jozy finished off in a brilliant season in Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar which saw him deal with racist chanting by saying he would pray for those who abused him, set a record for Americans Abroad with 31 goals in all competitions and named to the team of Team of the Season in Holland, a first for an American. Internationally he broke a two year scoreless streak by scoring 8 times in 14 appearances (including a hat trick in a friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina) and pace the US during qualification for next year’s World Cup. The wheels have come off a bit after his transfer to Sunderland where some inconsistent performances, coaching changes and formations have limited his effectiveness. But 2013 was overall a good year for the man who’ll be shouldering the US’ scoring load in Brazil in 2014
Bayern Munich- The German Club was Champion of, well… everything in 2013. Bundesliga? Earned 91 points (a record) and won the league by 25 points over 2nd place Borussia Dortmund. German Cup? Got that with a 3-2 win over Stuttgart. Champions League? Rolled over Arsenal, Juventus, destroyed Barcelona in the semifinals and outlasted Dortmund in a classic final. Club World Cup? Overcame a field that included Atletico Mineiro, Al-Ahly, and hosts Raja Casablanca in the final. This is a truly stacked team with the likes of Bastien Sweinsteiger, Frank Ribery , Jerome Boateng, Arjen Robben and Dante who will be a good bet to repeat their German and Champions League triumphs
Confederations Cup- The story from the World Cup dress rehearsal, featuring the winners of the all Confederations within FIFA, should have been the play of Brazil who looked more than ready to claim a World Cup on home soil by running Spain out of the building in the final. Or perhaps the individual play of Neymar. Instead the country wide protests by Brazil’s citizens against its government for its preference of erecting World Cup stadiums to feeding its poor, addressing the needs of its dwindling middle class and a deteriorating health-care system, dominated headlines and cast an uncertain pall over the Big Dance.
DaMarcus Beasley-The national career of the artist formerly known as Run DMB appeared to have flamed out after his below average play in the 2009 Confederations Cup and cameo appearance at the 2010 World Cup. But after resurrecting his club career in the Mexican league with Puebla in 2011 he began receiving renewed call ups to The Squad by Jurgen Klinsmann. Through a spate of injuries and inconsistent performances, Beasley has featured at left back throughout 2013 and made the position his own. Being able to reinvent yourself is the key to longevity and because of it, DaMarcus looks set to represent the US at his 4th World Cup.
Egypt- The Pharaohs became every American’s second favorite side in 2013. Coached by former US Coach, Bob Bradley, Egyptian soccer was not unaffected by the political turmoil in the country. Following the riots in Port Said in 2012, the Egyptian Soccer League was shut down indefinitely. Bradley who had already scored good results in World Cup Qualifying, further endeared himself to the Egyptian populace by appearing at the demonstrations against riots and declaring that he was staying on as coach, hoping to help Egypt reach its goal of qualifying for the World Cup, something the 7-time African Champions have failed to do since 1978. Egypt, led by stalwarts such as Mohamed Aboutrika, Amr Zaki, Ahmed Fathy went undefeated through their initial qualifying round but lost to Ghana 7-3 over a two legged playoff (including a 6-0 loss in Accra). While Bradley and Egypt felt just short of reaching their goal, he demonstrated his ability to coach, manage a team in the face of unforeseen turmoil and connect with the people of another country. Other countries should be calling soon enough.
Ferguson, Sir Alex- A few nights ago I listened to Bill Walton run down a list of whom was considered the greatest coaches. The list included john Wooden, Vince Lombardi and Bear Bryant amongst others. I immediately knew that they only considered American coaches because Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t included on the list. With no disrespect to the others, NONE of them can claim to have won 38 trophies as Sir Alex did with Manchester United, which included 13 Premiere League Titles, 5 FA Cups, 2 UEFA Champions League Titles and 10 Community Shields. He retired this year after United for 26 years as manager and helped build it into what is now the most valuable sports franchise IN THE WORLD. Oh by the way, those 38 trophies aren’t the only trophies he’s won. He captured several other coaching in Scotland before he got the United job. THAT is the greatest coach in history.
Ghana-Another team getting it done with an African coach at the helm, the Black Stars seem to be a talented team that no one is talking about. Given the presence of Portugal and Germany in next year’s WC Group, no one is giving Ghana much of chance to advance. However, the 2014 World Cup will mark their third consecutive appearance in the Big Dance with appearances in the Round of 16 and Quarterfinals. Their quarterfinal exit 3 years ago, literally at the treacherous hands of Luis Suarez, will fuel the motivation of players like Michael Essien (who missed the 2010 WC through injury), Asamoah Gyan, Andre Ayew, Sulley Muntari and Kevin Prince-Boateng. There’s a reason Group G is considered a Group of Death and they are part of it.
H- Why couldn’t the US have landed in THIS Group. Geeez…
Ivory Cost (Cote D’Ivoire) Drogba. Yaya and Kolo Toure. Salomon Kalou. With names like these, it’s not a stretch to call this Cote D’Ivoire’s golden generation of footballers. Yet for all their club accomplishments and talent, this squad has not captured an African Cup of Nations and has yet to advance past the group stage of the World Cup. With these players, especially Drogba, getting on in years, the 2014 World Cup likely represents the last chance for this group of players to make their mark on international football. Given the teams of with them in Group C (Colombia, Greece and Japan) this might be their year.
Jermaine Jones-Intense, hardcore player whose snow afro in Denver was probably the most iconic image from US Soccer in 2013. Since his debut in 2011, the German-American brother who spent time in Chicago and Greenville, MS before moving back to Germany with his mother, has been a constant in the US’ midfield, paired mostly with The BAWSE (Michael Bradley). While his tenacity and commitment to the cause has never been questioned, his physical nature has caused some US followers to be concerned about silly yellow and possible red cards. Nevertheless he has shown the ability to play the defensive midfield position with sufficient toughness to give the US a fighting chance in Brazil next summer.
Sporting KC- A second MLS title for the heartland (first since changing its name from the Wizards). Similar to the 2000 edition, Sporting KC rode the league’s best defense (only 30 goals allowed in 34 matches) to 58 points, just one behind RBNY for the Supporter’s Shield. After outlasting the New England Revolution 4-3 on aggregate and perennial favorites Houston Dynamo 2-1 on aggregate, the won MLS’ Showcase Showdown in front of their home fans after a 1-1 draw and an epic penalty shootout against Real Salt Lake. They will next set their sights on Cruz Azul in the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals.
Leroux, Sydney- Born in British Columbia, but reppin’ the US, this prolific striker has become a mainstay on the US Women’s Team. Raised in a family of baseball/softball players, she knew early on that she wanted to play soccer and wanted to represent the US. She moved to the Scottsdale, AZ and lived with several host families during high school. She eventually enrolled at UCLA where her goal scoring exploits landed her forth on UCLA’s goals, points and game winning goals chart. Playing with US since her U-20 days, she picked up a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics and has represented the US in the Algarve Cup. At a June friendly against Canada in Toronto, she was booed during the match but got her revenge by scoring the final goal in a 3-0 win, then sushed the crowd and popped her jersey. She stated later on Twitter that her gestures were based on years of abuse (some of it racial) that she’s gotten from Canadian fans since turning out for the US. Her 2013 wasn’t all bad. She was featured in Sports Illustrated’s Body Issue, (wow) was NWSL Player of the Week in Mid July and has landed several endorsement deals. Glad you’re running with us, Syd.
Mario Balotelli-This guy is rapidly becoming the next Nicolas Anelka. Tremendously talented but seemingly unable to settle. Born in Italy to Ghanaian parents who placed him in foster care as an infant, Mario adopted the surname of his foster parents and has considered himself Italian. Signing with Inter Milan in 2007 his talent, strength and goal scoring ability became readily apparent but so did his immaturity and attitude problems. The target of several racist chants in Italy, he also rubbed teammates and opponents the wrong play with his attitude and then committed the ultimate sin of being scene with an AC Milan jersey. After falling out with Jose Mourniho, he moved to Manchester City, coached by fellow Italian Roberto Mancini. While Balotelli continued to develop his talent he remained subject to disciplinary problems and was eventually sold to AC Milan. Mario’s talent and penchant for scoring great goals for both club and country (12 goals in 29 appearance for the Azzurri) have been tempered by his inability to maintain his place in any side. He’ll most likely goto Brazil with Italy but his uneven club situation may hinder his effectiveness.
Nigeria- With the attention squarely on Cote D’Ivoire and the Black Stars of Ghana, Nigeria stayed below the radar through the group stages of the 2013 African Cup of Nations before upsetting the Elephants in the Quarterfinals, and beating Mali and Burkino Faso (winners over Ghana) to gain their 3rd ACON title. Strong performances from GK Vincent Enyeama, veteran John Obi Mikel as well as Victor Moses and top scorer Emmanuel Emenike helped lead the way but what’s most telling is that that they, too, have found success with an African coach, former captain Stephen Keshi, to whom the NFA seems to be committed for the long term. They’ll have a legitimate shot of qualifying out of Group F at the Big Dance in Brazil behind Argentina , against the likes of Iran and Bosnia-Herzovgina.
Oguchi Onyewu- If you told me 5 years ago that he would have little chance of featuring at the 2014 World Cup, I’d have looked at you like…well like that.
Pope, Eddie- E Pope played his last match for the US in 2006 but the legacy lives on. In December he was named to the US’ All-Time XI receiving 33 votes, second only to Marcelo Balboa amongst defenders. Though he was only Black player named, other Black players receiving votes were Tim Howard, Tony Sanneh, Cobi Jones, Earnie Stewart and Roy Lassiter.
Qatar The awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar ahead of the US was met with instant disbelief in many quarters. Playing a World Cup in the middle of the desert seemed like a far fetched idea to begin with. Rumors of corruption in the voting process have bubbled under the surface since soon after the vote. Now FIFA Grand Poobah Sepp Blatter says awarding Qatar the World Cup may have been a mistake and has floated the idea of a winter World Cup. Really? While I’m in favor of new hosts and certainly the thinking that Europe must hold every World Cup is silly, let’s make sure the place chosen is actually feasible, ok?
Ronaldo, Cristiano-Perhaps finally getting his due as one of the great players of this generation. CR7 has spent the last 5 years in the shadow of rival Lionel Messi but his greatness in 2013 cannot be denied. He ended the season with 55 goals for Real Madrid in all competitions, flirted with returning to Manchester United and scored an unbelievable hat trick against Sweden to the second leg of their World Cup Qualifying playoff. Forget the talk about how arrogant he appears and how much a pretty boy he may be. THIS. DUDE. CAN. BALL. His pace, his control on the ball, his ability to deliver in big moments all at 6’1” which is supposedly too tall to be effective dribbler and playmaker, shows just how special he is. This writer loves Messi and is not a Real Madrid fan but let’s give CR7 his props.
Sanvezzo, Camilo-How do you earn MLS’ Goal of the Year honors? With this! People only dream about doing stuff like this on X-Box or something. Thanks to the Vancouver Whitecaps striker, we at least know it’s possible. Good lord, what a goal…
TV Azteca-Give us THE call of the Hex. With Mexico seemingly out of the Big Dance after losing on the road to Costa Rica in the final round of the Hex, they needed the US to overcome a goal deficit late in Panama City against Los Canaleros to have a chance of advancing to the intercontinental playoff against New Zealand. In the second minute of injury time, Graham Zusi headed in a cross from Brad Evans that tied the game (the US would add another to win 3-2), and allowed to Mexico qualify. The announcers from TV Azteca went crazy screaming in ENGLISH “WE LOVE YOU!!! WE LOVE YOU FOREVER AND EVER! GOD BLESS AMERICA…” How fun is this game?
USA-Quite an interesting year for The Squad in its Centennial Year. Coming off a semi-final round of qualifying in which wins were less than impressive and losses (like that to Jamaica for the first time in World Cup Qualifying) were causes for concern, the US were thoroughly outplayed in Honduras by the Catrachos. This was followed by an article in the Sporting News that suggested that the new methods instituted by Jurgen Klinsmann were not being well received and gave rise to serious concerns of disconnect within the locker room. The US answered this by beating Costa Rica in the famous Snow Game, then earned a 0-0 draw against El Enemigo, only the second time they’ve returned from Azteca with points. From there, the US put together a run of consecutive victories that would eventually reach 12, see them beat Germany and Bosnia-Herzegovina in friendlies earn a Gold Cup Title, provide us with the requisite 2-0 victory over El Enemigo and finish qualification atop the Hex standings. The aforementioned Jozy, Eddie Johnson and The BAWSE proved their importance to the team, The Truth (Landon Donovan) has rediscovered his love of for the game and Alejandro Bedoya seems very intent on making a statement come next year. Their reward? A ridiculous World Cup group that features Germany, Ghana and Portugal where the defensive questions regarding the outside backs and the relative inexperience of center-backs Omar Gonzalez and presumably Matt Besler or Geoff Cameron will be asked repeatedly. Whatever. Let’s Get It, USA!
Villian of 2013 Racists in European football terraces who make monkey chants at Black footballers? That’s a given and why give these fools any attention when the incredibly talented Luis Suarez is out there biting people? I like to pick on Luis Suarez because, well, he’s Luis Suarez. He just makes it too easy and in 2013 he put those bunny teeth of his to work on Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic’s arm. No, for real, he actually bit him, as evidenced here. For his interesting choice of in- game snack, Suarez earned a 10 game ban and the undying support of Liverpool fans. I loved the Guardian’s collection of memes on the subject.
World Cup- The World Cup draw in early December finally gave FIFA and Brazil soccer talking points that had nothing to do with protests, stadium construction delays, or deadly accidents…you know, basically the stuff that was expected in South Africa in 2010. The hosts Brazil and favorites like Argentina got groups with the consistency of oatmeal, while Spain gets the Netherlands as its opening match. My prediction? Argentina is due but I don’t see Brazil losing this on home soil.
X-pansion (I know, I know)-MLS moved closer to Commissioner Don Garber ‘s (aka The Don) dream of 24 teams in MLS with the announcement of Orlando being granted an MLS franchise, the establishment of New York City FC, a joint venture between Manchester City and the New York Yankees which will begin play in 2015 with former RSL coach Jason Kreis at the helm and the continued efforts of David Beckham to re-establish a team in Miami. Becks has spoken with LeBron James (an investor with Liverpool FC) and several other celebrities from Tom Cruise to Jay-Z about a possible partnership. While MLS needs to be in Florida, am I the only one who wants to see someone make an effort in Atlanta?
Y- Just because…(and yes, I couldn’t find a Y for 2013)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic- While Lionel Messi and CR7 are recognized as the two best players on the planet, the Z-man has certainly forced himself into the conversation. The big Swede certainly knows how to rub people the wrong way with his arrogance, his tendency to pick fights, even amongst his own teammates and sexist views about women’s soccer. But make no mistake. The PSG man is an incredibly talented footballer who scores insane, wonder goals . A shame that he won’t be at the World Cup next year but CR7 refused to lose that day…
Happy New Year to all!
Live this Game!
Love this Game!
Andrew L. Dixon, III is a soccer writer based in Tallahassee, FL and has contributed articles to BASN since 2004. He can be reached at email@example.com