USA Soccer: Ranking the 10 Most Memorable Moments of 2011
This season saw some remarkable events happen in American soccer. We got to see the men's national team achieve some fantastic results and get a new manager, while the women's side reached the Women's World Cup final and gained a tremendous amount of popularity.
Things are looking promising in 2012, with the start of World Cup qualifying for the men and the 2012 Olympics for both men and women's sides.
But before we ring in the new year, here are the 10 most memorable moments of 2011 for both the men's and women's national teams.
10. Defeating Panama to Advance to the Gold Cup Final
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It may have only been Panama, a side that was ranked 67th in the world going into the Gold Cup, that the Americans defeated, yet this victory had many more implications than just a spot in the Gold Cup final.
After the Yanks lost to Panama in the group stage, the loss brought a tremendous amount of negative attention onto the national team. This was a massive loss for the Americans on their own home soil, and it could have had a massive effect if the Yanks were to lose to Guadeloupe in their final group stage match.
Fortunately for the Americans, they defeated Guadeloupe in that match and were able to defeat Jamaica 2-0 to set up the rematch with Panama.
The semifinal match with Panama was by no means a footballing masterpiece. However, a Clint Dempsey goal in the 77th minute was enough to get the Yanks into the final.
9. Losing in the Women's World Cup Final to Japan
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Making a World Cup final is always a great accomplishment, and even though they lost the match to Japan, the US women's national team should be proud of their accomplishments in Germany.
That includes going to extra time and penalties thanks to two fantastic goals by Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan. Also, considering how strong Japan played throughout the tournament and how hard they proved to be to penetrate, the Americans should be proud of what they did.
Finally, with extra momentum that was gained from this finals appearance and the growth of their squad, the USWNT will bring a strong side to compete in London and try to win the Olympic Gold.
8. Winning 3-2 in Slovenia
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After failing to beat the Slovenians in South Africa during their World Cup match, the United States men were able to earn some redemption by winning 3-2 in Ljubljana.
After scoring a paltry two goals in their previous six matches, the Yanks exploded with three first-half strikes from Edson Buddle, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore to take an early 3-1 lead.
Even though Slovenia were able to get a goal back in the second half, that was all the US team conceded on their way to a 3-2 win to close out the year.
7. A Strong Group Stage
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For the United States women, they found themselves in a fairly difficult group in their World Cup group stage. The sides that the Americans had to face were North Korea (then-ranked eighth in the world), Colombia (then-ranked 31st) and Sweden (then-ranked fifth).
The Yanks were able to dispose of North Korea and Colombia in their first two matches with relative ease. In their finale, the Americans were defeated 2-1 by Sweden.
However, the strong group stage that was put together by the Yanks was the start of a phenomenal run to the World Cup final.
6. Drawing 1-1 with Argentina
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Facing the fourth-ranked side in the world that includes one of the top players in the world is never an easy task, yet the American men were able to shut down Argentina at the Meadowlands in late March in front of a record crowd of 78,936.
A first half that was dominated by Argentina saw the visitors go into the half ahead, thanks to a goal from Esteban Cambiasso.
However, the Americans were later able to equalize in the second half when teenage sensation Juan Agudelo scored following some calamity inside of the penalty area.
The draw helped to boost confidence for the national team, even if it was fairly temporary.
5. Seeing Bob Bradley Go
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Bob Bradley had success with the national team during his five years in charge. However, many American fans wanted Bradley removed after losing to Ghana in the round of 16 in the 2010 World Cup.
After a humiliating loss to Spain in a pre-Gold Cup friendly, a weak performance in the Gold Cup group stage and a loss to archrival Mexico in the final, Bradley was forced out of his job by US Soccer in July.
Bradley has since taken up the post of national team manager for Egypt.
4. Jurgen Klinsmann Becoming the New USMNT Manager
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Jurgen Klinsmann had for years been considered as a future managerial candidate for the spot as men's national team coach, and shortly after Bob Bradley was forced out of the managerial spot the former German national team manager took over as American manager.
Klinsmann has since brought in a new attacking mindset for the national team that they have been slow to adapt to. However, the Americans certainly are a much more entertaining side to watch now than they were under Bradley.
Also, there have been many new young players that have started to play for the Yanks over the past several months. This new energy has only made the team an even more watchable side than they were before.
3. New and Exciting Players Are Joining the Men's National Team
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An emerging trend under Klinsmann has been the increased use of younger players to play on the national team.
That includes seeing players such as Danny Williams, Timmy Chandler and Fabian Johnson joining the national team ranks from Germany and becoming full-time starters.
Players such as Bill Hamid, Michael Orozco Fiscal, Kyle Beckerman, Brek Shea, Jeff Larentowicz, Jose Torres, Edgar Castillo and Zach Loyd have all gotten called up for the national team after getting shunned under Bradley.
Expect these players to make an even bigger impact in 2012 with Klinsmann running the show and settling into the manager position.
2. Abby Wambach's Winner vs France
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After Abby Wambach's monster goal to save the day against Brazil, the Yanks had a tricky semifinal against France.
With the score drawn at one apiece through 79 minutes, it was Wambach who scored off a Lauren Cheney corner (once again with her head), to give the Americans a 2-1 lead.
Six minutes later, substitute Alex Morgan scored to give the Americans a 3-1 victory and a spot in the final.
1. Abby Wambach's Stoppage Time Goal vs Brazil
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It was the quarterfinals of the World Cup against Brazil and the United States was down 2-1 in the dying moments of extra time. With their World Cup dream about to die, it truly was going to take a miracle for the Americans to reach a penalty shootout.
On what was probably their final attack of the game, Megan Rapinoe lofted an absolutely perfect cross through the penalty area to Abby Wambach, who deposited the ball home to tie the match at two and give the Americans a lifeline.
In the resulting penalty shootout, the Americans were able to win 5-3 and advance to the semifinal in what was one of the biggest shocks in Women's World Cup history.
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