Top 10 Best Moments for the USMNT in 2012

John D. Halloran@JohnDHalloranContributor IIDecember 15, 2012

Top 10 Best Moments for the USMNT in 2012

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    The United States Men’s National Team had plenty of ups and downs in 2012, but there is little doubt that the year has to be considered a very successful year both for the team and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

    With qualification to the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying secured and several very nice friendly wins to boot, here are the 10 best moments for the USMNT in 2012.

No. 10: The January Friendlies

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    The January friendlies, typically full of young MLS players and USMNT retreads, usually get short-shrift.

    This year’s January matches were no different, but among the two victories for the USMNT, several new faces emerged who became very important to the U.S. 2012 campaign.

    Graham Zusi made his international debut, starting both matches and looked to be one of the few players on the field ready for the speed of the international level.

    Geoff Cameron also started both matches and, while he was sent off against Panama, he had a solid game against Venezuela and became an integral part of the team earning 10 caps in 2012.

    And finally, Michael Parkhurst played his first game with the national team in over a year in January and worked his way back into the national team picture.

No. 9: USMNT vs. Scotland

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    In the first game of the self-dubbed “Five-Game Tournament” this past summer, the U.S. demolished Scotland 5-1.

    Although Scotland is far from a world power (they were ranked 48th when the game took place), the fact that the U.S. beat them so thoroughly and with such a display of class, was heartening to many American fans.

    The game can be best remembered for Michael Bradley’s ungodly half-volleyed strike and Landon Donovan’s hat trick.

No. 8: USMNT vs. Russia

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    This 2-2 draw in Russia, coupled with the U.S.’ wins in Italy and Mexico, proved that the U.S. is ready to compete among the world’s elite.

    In the game, Tim Howard again stood on his head and Michael Bradley had yet another wonder strike from distance.

    The game also marked the debut of American prospect Josh Gatt, the re-emergence of Timothy Chandler, Juan Agudelo and Mix Diskerud on the international scene and, perhaps, the last appearance of Clarence Goodson with the Nats.

No. 7: The Summer Transfer Window

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    This may have been the most memorable transfer window ever for American soccer players.

    Michael Bradley, only 18 months removed from being persona non-grata at both Borussia Monchengladbach and Aston Villa, engineered a transfer to AS Roma, one of the biggest clubs in the world, after a successful one-year stint at Chievo Verona.

    Clint Dempsey, after scoring 23 goals for Fulham in 2011-12, made the move to Champions League contender Tottenham.

    Geoff Cameron made the move from MLS’ Houston Dynamo to English Premier League side Stoke City.

    Maurice Edu, Carlos Bocanegra and Alejandro Bedoya were all able to escape the disastrous situation at Rangers moving to Stoke City, Racing Santander and Helsingborg, respectively.

    Brad Guzan re-signed with Aston Villa in what looked like a foolish move before he beat out Irish international Shay Given for the No. 1 spot.

    Terrence Boyd made a successful move to Rapid Vienna and has been getting on the scoresheet for them frequently.

    And, Oguchi Onyewu made the move to Malaga who is playing in the Champions League.

    Other than Edu, and perhaps Onyewu, these moves have all worked out wonderfully and will only help the USMNT going forward.

No. 6: Cap-Ties

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    There were several games in 2012 that officially cap-tied several dual nationals to the USMNT permanently.

    Ever since the loss of Giuseppe Rossi and Neven Subotic, USMNT fans have been anxious to get any dual internationals tied to the U.S. for international play.

    Terrence Boyd came on in the 81st minute of the U.S.’ June win over Antigua and Barbuda, Joe Corona came into the October Guatemala match as a 90th minute substitute and Danny Williams came into the first September game against Jamaica as a substitute in the 58th minute.

    Since all three of those games were World Cup qualifiers, those players are now permanently cap-tied to the USMNT.

    And, Corona, Boyd and Williams should all be huge players for the USMNT for the next decade.

    Fabian Johnson also earned his first official (non-friendly) cap against Guatemala in June, but since he already filed his one-time switch with FIFA, he was already tied to the U.S.

    Next on the list is Timmy Chandler.

No. 5: USMNT vs. Jamaica in Columbus, Ohio

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    Coming off a 2-1 loss in the first leg of this series only four days earlier, the USMNT’s hopes of World Cup qualification were on the brink of disaster.

    A shaky home-win over Antigua and Barbuda and a tie in Guatemala had only given the U.S. four points so far in qualifying.

    Meanwhile, Jamaica had six points already and Guatemala would likely have six by the end of the day with another win over Antigua.

    The pressure was on the United States because anything less than three points would put qualification in series jeopardy.

    The loss in Jamaica several days earlier had revealed some serious problems with both the U.S.’ lack of attack and its shoddy defense.

    Worse, if the U.S. went full throttle into the attack in the home leg of this matchup, they would make themselves vulnerable to Jamaica’s speed on the counterattack.

    However, in front of a raucous and patriotic home crowd in Columbus, Ohio on September 11, the U.S. pulled out a 1-0 win on a Herculez Gomez free kick and put its qualification hopes back on track.

No. 4: USMNT vs. Antigua and Barbuda, Away Leg

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    When the U.S. group-stage schedule for World Cup qualifying was released, few could have expected that this be a critical game for the U.S. that came down to a 90th minute winner.

    Yet, there the USMNT was, tied 1-1 with Antigua and Barbuda, the 121st ranked team in the world with only seconds remaining.

    Worse, had that result stood, the United States would have entered its final match in qualifying with eight points, two less than its final opponent, Guatemala.

    Guatemala then would have only needed a tie to knock the U.S. out of World Cup qualifying in their match against the U.S. four days later.

    Instead, with just seconds remaining, Eddie Johnson headed home his second goal of the game and put the U.S. in a much better position headed into their final game of qualification.

No. 3: USMNT vs. Italy

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    The 1-0 win in Genoa was the U.S.’ first-ever victory over Italy in 11 tries.

    Like the U.S.’ win in Mexico and tie in Russia, the U.S. was forced back into its own end for long stretches, but relied on great goalkeeping from Tim Howard and efficient counterattacks to find a result on a Clint Dempsey strike in the 55th minute.

No. 2: USMNT vs. Mexico

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    In retrospect, the Federation of Mexican Football has to feel a bit foolish about scheduling this friendly at the famed Estadio Azteca.

    What had been a huge mental hurdle for the U.S., who had been 0-23-1 in Mexico before this game, is now gone.

    The U.S., capitalizing on outstanding goalkeeping from Tim Howard, found one gilt-edge counterattack engineered by a strong run from Brek Shea to create the game-winner.

    Despite the fact that both teams were missing many of their top players that day, the U.S. will enter World Cup qualifying believing that they can salvage at least one point from their trip to Mexico in the hexagonal because of this win.

No. 1: USMNT vs. Guatemala, Home Leg

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    While not as historic as the U.S. wins over Italy or Mexico, or as pretty as the U.S. win over Scotland, the USMNT’s win over Guatemala in the final game of group-stage World Cup qualifying was the most important moment of 2012 because it was the win that advanced the U.S. to the next round.

    Entering the game with a tie guaranteeing advancement, the U.S. went down early after Carlos Ruiz got in behind the U.S. defense to give Guatemala the early lead.

    For a team that has qualified for every World Cup since 1990, being eliminated in the group stage in the CONCACAF region would have been a huge embarrassment.

    However, the U.S. did not panic and worked their way back into the game via a Carlos Bocanegra goal, before sealing it on two goals from Clint Dempsey to move into the hexagonal.

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