2010 was another fantastic year of soccer. Beyond the World Cup, 2010 showcased memorable moments at all levels of the game. Here is a list of my top 10 moments of 2010, plus a bonus moment that I couldn’t keep off the list.
10. Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 Host a World Cup
December 2, 2010 FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced that the 2018 and 2022 World Cups would be held in Russia and Qatar respectively. The news shook the soccer world and left bitterness and resentment in its wake. Allegations that Qatar and Russia bribed voters were once again brought into the spotlight but the cries of injustice sounded more like sour grapes.
Like many Americans, I was disappointed that the US didn’t win the 2022 World Cup but the idea of a World Cup in Qatar and Russia is starting to grow on me. Soccer’s greatest triumph is bringing the world closer together. Although these two World Cups are tainted with controversy, I have no doubt that they will be fantastic events.
9. Akron wins NCAA title
Akron won the College Cup in style. I can’t remember watching a college team play with as much composure and skill as the 2010 Zips. It is a testament to the college game and the overall improvement in the way youth coaches develop players. Akron’s possession, skill, and athleticism were a step above the competition.
#2 Akron faced #1 Louisville in the final of the College Cup. Undefeated Louisville played well but it was clear that Akron was the best team in the country. Almost 80 minutes into the match, Scott Caldwell put Akron in the lead off a rebounded shot in the penalty box. The Zips held on for the 1-0 victory and their first national title.
This year’s winning team should produce a large group of professionals and future national teamers, including: Kofi Sarkodie, Perry Kitchen, and Zarek Valentin. The pool of young talented American soccer players is growing and the college game is benefitting.
8. Landon Donovan to Everton
After the 2009 MLS season, Landon Donovan signed a short loan deal with English Premier League side Everton FC. Donovan played 13 games, scoring two goals and winning Everton’s Player of the Month award for January. Donovan’s successful spell with Everton included memorable victories over Chelsea and Manchester United, as well as a standing ovation in Donovan’s final match against Hull City. The loan spell was important for Donovan and US soccer. It gave him confidence and experience that proved invaluable during the summer World Cup.
As a long time Donovan fan, it was nice to finally see his talents recognized in Europe. His unsuccessful spells in Germany are a thing of the past and he is now a highly sought after player among English club.
7. Colorado Rapids win MLS Cup
After 14 years of frustration, the Colorado Rapids finally won the MLS Cup. The Rapids worked their way into the final with their blue collar style and gutted out a victory over a very talented FC Dallas team.
So how did this consistently underachieving side finally win the Cup? The steady defending of Drew Moor, the power and pace of Omar Cummings, the strength of Jeff Larentowicz, and the passion of Pablo Mastroeni. These players stepped up to the plate this season and delivered. Winning a championship is always a team effort, but these four really made the difference.
I also have to tip my hat to Coach Gary Smith for making this team champions. At the beginning of the season Coach Smith was on a mission to build a mentally tough team that knew how to win. He found those qualities in Jeff Larentowicz, Wells Thompson, Marvel Wynne, Brian Mullan, Anthony Wallace, and Mac Kandji. Coach Smith also took chances, testing out formations (4-3-3, 4-5-1, and 4-4-2) and experimenting with players (Wynne at center defender).
In the end, the transfers, the style, the players, and the coach all played their part to make this an unforgettable season for the Rapids and its fans.
6. Lionel Messi’s four goals against Arsenal
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi put on one of the best performance of any player this year. The little Argentine’s four goal haul against Arsenal was pure magic.
Barcelona tied Arsenal 2-2 away at the Emirates in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals. Barca was always the favorite win at home, but the return leg didn’t start as planned for Barca. Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner silenced the Nou Camp crowd with the opening goal to give Arsenal a 1-0 lead and a 3-2 lead in aggregate. Arsenal’s joy was short lived. A few minutes later Messi equalized, and the rest is history. Messi went on to score a first half hat-trick and a fourth only a few minutes from time. Messi scored every way possible, outside the eighteen, inside the penalty area, off a breakaway, and, of course, a cutting run through the Arsenal defense and a powerful low shot between the keepers legs.
The performance was so good that Arsene Wenger, Arsenal’s coach, couldn’t blame his team for the loss. After the match Wenger went on to say, “Messi is the best in the world by a large distance. It is difficult because he’s not always in the game, but when gets on the ball he’s really dangerous and unstoppable.”
I’m sure deep down inside Wenger wanted to say same thing that everyone was thinking after Messi’s brilliant display . . . “thank you Messi.”
5. 2010 World Cup in South Africa
The first World Cup in Africa was a success. This was a great moment for soccer and Africa. You could see how much it meant to the continent but it was a shame that Ghana was the only African country to make a run in the tournament. Nonetheless, the tournament left us with many memorable moments, including: Spain’s first World Cup, Donovan’s goal against Algeria, Luis Suarez’s hand ball against Ghana, and many more.
If you are like me, you live your life in four year cycles. The build up to the 2014 should be interesting for the US. Bob Bradley has called in host of young players for his January camp and it looks like US soccer is headed into a new era.
4. Germany Defeats England 4-1
The game was joyous for the Germans and painful for the English, but vividly memorable for all. The Germans, led by young stars Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller, played dynamic attacking football. The English struggled through the group phase and shot themselves in the foot by finishing second in their group behind the US. Goals by Miroslav Klose, Lucas Podolski, and a brace by Thomas Muller earned the Germans a sound victory over the inept English side and passage to the quarterfinals.
The game was memorable for many reasons. First, the world got glimpse at the future of the German national team. Germany’s young stars shined bright in this tournament and the future of German soccer looks secure. Second, Frank Lampard’s denied equalizer at the end of the first half raised plenty of controversy. The ball clearly passed the goal line but the referee did not award a goal. If the goal was allowed the English would’ve equalized and entered the second half fired up to win the match . . . maybe, maybe not. Finally, it highlighted England’s struggles to produce on the world stage. Their problems are numerous and run deep. The FA has to take a look at their system and rebuild everything from youth development, to the professional leagues, to the moral character of their players (Terry and Bridge infidelity scandal).
3. Luis Suarez handball
Is he a hero or a villain? The controversial goal line clearance by Luis Suarez earned Uruguay an unlikely spot in the World Cup semifinals.
Uruguay faced Ghana in the quarterfinals of the World Cup. Tied 1-1 at the end of overtime the game looked destined for penalty kicks. At the death of the match Ghana sent a free kick into the Uruguayan penalty area that started a flurry of chances for the African side. Appiah’s shot was blocked by Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez. The deflection fell to Adiyiah but Suarez once again denied the Ghanaians except this time it was with his hand. Suarez received a red card for his blatant handball and walked off the pitch in tears.
Suarez made his way towards the tunnel with his jersey covering his face. He stopped to look on as Asamoah Gyan stepped up to take the ensuing penalty kick. Gyan, one of the tournaments best strikers, put his shot off the cross bar and over the goal. Uruguay was saved and went on to win the game in penalty kicks. Suarez went from villain to hero in an instant and his tears turned into an unbridled celebration as he continued through tunnel to the showers.
The end of this match was riddled with drama and heartbreak. Suarez’s handball will live on in World Cup folklore.
2. Donovan’s Goal against Algeria
A brilliant ball from US goalkeeper Tim Howard released Landon Donovan on the right. Donovan found Altidore sprinting into the 18. Altidore took Donovan’s pass and setup Dempsey who unleashed a shot that the Algerian keeper could only deflect into the path of an on rushing Donovan. Donovan made no mistake and punched the US’s ticket to second round.
No it wasn’t the most important goal ever scored by a US player but it validated everyone’s belief in this team. The US has an unwavering will to win and a collective spirit far superior to any individual foot skill. The world turns up their nose at our unrefined style of play, but deep down they wish they had what the US has . . .guts.
It was an epic moment for US soccer. The memories of the 2006 disappointment were washed away and a new feeling of hope emerged. More important, the country and the world finally realized how much the sport has grown in the US over the last 15 years. This was a wake-up call to sports people across country, letting them know that soccer is a part of the American culture and its only getting stronger.
1. Andres Iniesta gives Spain the World Cup
After 116 minutes already in the books, the 2010 World Cup final looked like it was headed to penalty kicks. But Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta had other plans.
Just outside the 18, a Dutch defender blocked a cross from Fernando Torres into the path of Cesc Fabergas who found Andres Iniesta inside the penalty area. Iniesta’s first touch popped the ball up and the diminutive Spaniard buried a half volley to give Spain their first World Cup victory.
The winning goal at a World Cup is the dream of any footballer. No player deserved it more than Andres Iniesta. Although a highly regarded player, he lived his career in the shadows of Xavi, Messi, and the hoard of talented players coming through Barcelona. This was Iniesta’s moment. For that brief moment, he was the only player in the world that mattered.
Love them or hate them, Spain played with a style that deserved the crown of World Champion. The Dutch played dirty, the Brazilians played without flair, the Argentineans played without substance, and, possibly, it was too soon for the young German team to win a World Cup. The Spanish, on the other hand, were perfectly poised for the victory.
Bonus Moment of 2010:
FC Denver Premier wins CASL 1st Division Championship
FC Denver, my amateur club team, finally won the CASL 1st division, the top amateur league in the state. The team avenged last season’s penalty kick shootout loss to rivals Chivas Guadalajara by posting a 3-1 victory over Chivas in this year’s championship match. It was a great day for FC Denver, and fitting end to 2010.
Share your top moments of 2010.