United States 2013 in Review: USMNT Best Players, Best Matches and More

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 26, 2013

United States 2013 in Review: USMNT Best Players, Best Matches and More

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    You name an emotion and it was felt by everyone surrounding the United States men's national team in 2013. 

    The year began with a terribly disappointing loss in San Pedro Sula to Honduras and had a chance to go far downhill until everything turned around in the SnowClasico against Costa Rica. 

    Once the Yanks won in Colorado in March, everything changed, and the year became one of the most memorable ever in the 100 years of U.S. soccer, which was also celebrated this year. 

    Jurgen Klinsmann's side won 12 games in a row as they won the CONCACAF Gold Cup and qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. 

    Despite ending the year on a sour note with two miserable performances against Scotland and Austria, the past 12 months were deemed a success by many.

    Here is a look back at some of the best and worst moments of the year that the USMNT produced. 

Best Game Honorable Mention

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    Another European Win in the Books (August 14)

    Powered by Jozy Altidore's hat-trick, the Yanks put four second-half goals past Bosnia-Herzegovina in their 4-3 win in Sarajevo. 


    Gold Cup Triumph (July 28)

    Brek Shea came off the bench and scored in the 69th minute to hand the United States the Gold Cup title over Panama, 1-0. 


    Brad Evans Rescues the Yanks in Kingston (June 7)

    All of the momentum that the Yanks carried into Kingston was almost killed by Jamaica until the unlikeliest of heroes, Brad Evans, scored the game-winner in the 92nd minute. The game ended 2-1 in favor of the Americans. 

Best Game No. 3: SnowClasico vs. Costa Rica (March 22)

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    In the buildup to the Yanks' first home match of the Hex, turmoil surrounded the team after Brian Straus' revealing piece in the Sporting News.

    Whether that was used as a rallying point by the team is debatable, but one thing is for sure; they thoroughly enjoyed playing in the snow at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. 

    Besides handing us Jermaine Jones' spectacular snofro, the game against Costa Rica also gave Klinsmann's side their first three points of the Hex. 

    Clint Dempsey scored the game's only goal in the 16th minute, and after the match, all of Costa Rica complained about the conditions. 

    After taking down the Ticos, the United States went into Azteca and held Mexico to a 0-0 draw and did not look back from that point on. 

Best Game No. 2: The Night Graham Zusi Became Mexico's Savior (October 15)

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    On the final night of the Hex, Graham Zusi forever endeared himself to the Mexican people and became a mortal enemy for life in Panama.

    Down by a goal in the waning moments of the match against Panama, Zusi put the entire region into shock with his 92nd-minute header. 

    Due to other results across the Hex, the goal eliminated Panama and put Mexico in the intercontinental playoff against New Zealand, which they eventually won in rather easy fashion. 

    To add to the misery felt by the crowd inside the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, substitute Aron Johannsson scored a minute later to clinch the victory.

    The victory ensured the United States the top spot in the Hex with 22 points.

Best Game No. 1: Dos a Cero (September 10)

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    It has become tradition that the United States host Mexico in Columbus during the Hex. 

    It has also become a ritual that the Yanks defeat El Tri by a 2-0 scoreline at Crew Stadium. 

    Just like the three occurrences in the Hex and the round of 16 match at the 2002 World Cup, the final score on September 10 was "Dos A Cero."

    The famous scoreline was in jeopardy late in the game as Clint Dempsey stepped to the spot to take a penalty. 

    Whether or not Dempsey missed the penalty to preserve the history of "Dos A Cero" is a fun debate we can have in our free time. 

    To make the victory even sweeter, the Yanks clinched a spot in the 2014 World Cup with the win, and the celebration with the fans in Ohio lasted long into the night. 

Best Players Honorable Mention

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Eddie Johnson

    Eddie Johnson had a resurgent year of sorts for the Yanks as he netted five goals, two of which came on the way to the Gold Cup title. 

    Despite scoring five times, Johnson did suffer from a few inconsistent performances as well in 2013. 

    The newly minted D.C. United forward will most likely make the trip to Brazil as a backup to Altidore and Johannsson.


    Chris Wondolowski

    The 30-year-old broke his international scoring slump in a major way this summer as he scored six times in eight days. 

    Chris Wondolowski's dream July began in San Diego against Panama and continued with a hat-trick against Belize and ended with a brace versus Cuba. 


    Michael Bradley

    If not for his September injury, Michael Bradley would easily be in the discussion for the top three players of the year.

    By missing out on the final few games of the Hex, Bradley proved his worth as he was dearly missed, especially in the away loss to Costa Rica.

Best Player No. 3: Clint Dempsey

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Despite hitting a rough patch of form at the club level after his move to the Seattle Sounders, Clint Dempsey had a strong 2013 for the United States. 

    In 10 games, the 30-year-old scored six goals, beginning with the lone American strike in the loss to Honduras in San Pedro Sula to open the Hex. 

    Dempsey then went on to score four goals in the next four games, including two goals against Germany in the historic 4-3 victory in Washington D.C. that commemorated 100 years of U.S. soccer.

    Although his form faded off toward the end of the year, Dempsey made himself stand out early in the year when Landon Donovan was still feuding with Klinsmann. 

    By stepping up as one of the key veterans on the team, Dempsey earned the title of captain in March. 

Best Player No. 2: Landon Donovan

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    In 2013, Donovan taught us that taking a self-imposed sabbatical to Cambodia does make your play on the pitch better. 

    Donovan was forced to earn his way back to the team by Klinsmann, and by performing well at the Gold Cup, he easily earned his spot in the squad back.

    The spectacular summer that the Los Angeles Galaxy playmaker had began in the friendly against Guatemala on July 5 where he scored twice. 

    While propelling the Yanks to the Gold Cup championship, Donovan became the first American to record 50 goals and 50 assists in his career. 

    When the latter stages of the Hex came around, Donovan was one of the first names on the teamsheet, and he proved that he will once again be a force to be reckoned with in 2014. 

Best Player No. 1: Jozy Altidore

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    George Frey/Getty Images

    After finally finding his feet at the club level with AZ Alkmaar, Altidore took his game to another level on the international stage this summer.

    In the win over Germany, Altidore broke his close to two-year scoring drought, and then the floodgates opened up. 

    The 24-year-old, who now plays for Sunderland in England, ended up scoring in four consecutive games in June with goals in the Hex against Jamaica, Panama and Honduras. 

    Altidore's most impressive performance came on August 14 when he scored a hat-trick in Sarajevo to power a second-half comeback against Bosnia-Herzegovina. 

    His hat-trick was highlighted by a free-kick go-ahead goal in the 84th minute that showcased a part of his skill set that we had yet to see. 

Worst of the Worst

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Bradley Injured Before Costa Rica Clash

    The fulcrum of the American midfield suffered a pre-match injury in San Jose on September 6, and it threw off the Yanks for the entire match as they lost, 3-1.


    Stuart Holden's Second Long-Term Injury

    No one player was cheered for more than Stuart Holden was in 2013.

    The 28-year-old midfielder returned from his long injury spell to play in the Gold Cup, and he played well for most of the tournament. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL in the final against Panama, which ended his chase for a World Cup roster spot. 


    End-of-the-Year Friendly Draws

    If the United States could forget two matches this season, they would most likely choose the pair of clashes against Scotland and Austria in November.

    Neither game was fun to watch as the Americans failed to score a single goal while drawing with the Scots in Glasgow and falling to the Austrians in Vienna, 1-0. 

Looking Ahead to 2014

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    The next 12 months of American soccer will tell us a lot about where the Yanks stand internationally. 

    The 2014 campaign begins with a February friendly against South Korea at the StubHub Center that will see mostly MLS-based players compete.

    Before the Americans make the trip to Brazil to take on the Group of Death, they will play a few friendlies and England is rumored to be one of their opponents, per Owen Gibson of the Guardian

    When they reach South America, the Yanks will open Group G play with Ghana before facing off against Portugal and Germany. 

    If all goes well in group play, the United States will have a chance to make a major statement in the knockout round, where anything can happen. 


    For coverage of the USMNT throughout 2014, follow me on Twitter, @JTansey90.