USMNT: Recapping the Last 12 Months Heading into Brazil Game
This time 12 months ago, the U.S. Men's National Team was gearing up for its toughest test of the calendar year as a matchup with Spain was just days away. Flash forward to the present, and we have a very similar type of match staring right into the face of the Yanks with Brazil coming to D.C. on Wednesday night.
Though the type of high-profile match is very similar to the one 12 months ago, a lot has changed since the U.S. took on one of the world’s best on its home soil. We have seen coaching changes, breakout players and plenty of great goals and moments along the way.
Here is a recap of the past 12 months heading into the National Team’s biggest game of the 2012. Enjoy!
Most Developed Player: Michael Bradley
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Over the past 12 months, nobody can argue that Michael Bradley has absolutely transformed into one of the best in the USMNT pool.
Ever since moving to Chievo Verona last Summer, the American midfielder has grown in confidence and skill on the pitch, as could clearly be seen by his performance Saturday night against Scotland.
With the removal of his dad from the managerial position, many expected Bradley to decline in USMNT relevancy, yet he has delightfully proven Jurgen Klinsmann and all Yanks fans wrong the last 12 months.
Best Moment: Ricardo Clark's Winner
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This category had some great candidates, but I am going to give the prize to Ricardo Clark’s late winner for a number of reasons. The goal was by far the most heroic and thrilling we have seen in the Klinsmann era and helped the USMNT start off 2012 with a bang.
It also had extra-special meaning considering it was scored by Ricardo Clark, whose National Team career has forever been plagued by getting subbed 30 minutes into the Ghana game after seemingly gifting Kevin Prince-Boateng the opening goal of the World Cup match.
Clark’s emotion and jubilation after scoring is the type of stuff that sends chills through any spectator’s body. It was a truly tremendous moment for him and one of the most exciting of the Klinsmann era.
Best Goal: Michael Bradley vs. Scotland
Michael Bradley takes his second prize in this year’s honorary awards with this absolute wonderstrike to the top right corner against Scotland.
Although never really known for his scoring abilities, Bradley showed that he is not afraid to hit it if given open space outside the 18.
Honorable Mention: Edson Buddle's strike vs. Slovenia
Most Disappointing Story: Stuart Holden's Struggles
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Probably one of the hardest stories to follow the last year has been Stuart Holden’s struggle get healthy again.
Before his knee injury last spring, it looked as though Stuart Holden could be one of the most effective midfielders in the Premier League and significantly help in the USMNT attack for years to come. However, multiple setbacks have kept Holden on the sideline all year long and led to his current club, Bolton, being relegated from the Premier League.
Will Stewie ever get back to the level he was playing at before the injury? For the USMNT’s case, fans sure hope so.
Breakout Performer: Clint Dempsey
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Do I even need to explain this one? Over the last 12 months, Dempsey has established himself as one of the best, if not the best, American midfielders ever to play the beautiful game.
Here are just some of his accomplishments this year: He finished in the top five in the EPL in scoring this season with 17 goals (23 across all competitions). He became the all-time leading U.S. scorer in the Premier League, passing Brian McBride for first place. He scored two hat tricks and two absolutely stunning free kicks this season.
After such a terrific year, he is now just months, possibly days, away from securing a big transfer to a Champions League club and taking the next step in an already terrific football career.
Biggest Question Heading into the Summer?: Timmy Chandler's Future
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Definitely one of the most frustrating stories of the last 12 months has been the Timmy Chandler saga.
We all could sympathize a little with Chandler last summer when he said he needed rest after a long Bundesliga season at the expense of his Gold Cup inclusion. But denying Klinsmann once again for no apparent reason for this summer’s qualifiers seems a bit like a slap in the face from the German-American.
The real story to follow as we head into the summer is whether Chandler wants to be a part of the USMNT in the future or would rather wait and see if Germany gives him a shot. If there is any coach who could possibly convince Chandler into staying, it would probably be Klinsmann. But only Timothy knows what he wants to do with his international career right now.
One thing is for sure, Klinsmann should lock down Terrence Boyd, Joe Corona and Fabian Johnson as soon as possible to avoid any similar situations in the future.