South Africa Soccer WCup US Algeria

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.

My November to Remember: -MLS CUP 2010

Colorado Represent!

Written by: Ian Campbell

The road through the playoffs wasn’t easy for the Rapids. Each step of the way was a challenge that had to be overcome. But from a fan’s perspective, it’s hard to imagine a better way for the Rapids to have done it.

The first leg of the playoffs was against Columbus at the Dick (Remember). I went with the Bulldog Supporter’s Group (as with most games) and met up at the British Bulldog to bus over to DSG around 4pm. There was a lot of energy at the Bulldog. The regulars for the games were already kitted up and ready to go, but there were also a lot of new faces. There were enough people ready to go that BSG was forced to grab a second bus for the trip for the first time since July 4th. At the park, each supporter’s group was ready for kickoff.

ekpoColorado had caught a break because Columbus was forced to start the backup goalie after the starter dislocated his should in the final game of the year. The first half carried all the action for this game: Pablo Mastroeni scored a rare goal on a slide to make it 1-0. From there out it was the standard back and forth of well-matched teams and Columbus never pushed that hard for an equalizer because of the aggregate nature of the series.

A 1-0 home win was nothing to scoff at, but it wasn’t the dominating performance that many fans had grown accustomed to over the summer. After a string of 3 goal wins, I had expected a bit more, especially with the large crowd that had shown up at the Dick to support the Rapids.

The second game of the series found me at Stoney’s Pub on Broadway with my FC Denver teammates.  When Colorado was down 2-0 late in the second half, facing elimination, I know that both crowds were behind the boys, and when Conor Casey struck one home near the end of regulation, the group went apeshit. I was hugging people I had just been introduced to, I had beer spilled on my head, and I felt like everyone in the crowd was my brother. It was exactly what I expected when I showed up.

Through the nail-biter overtime, no one really spoke.  It felt like more tension, living and dying on each play, until the final whistle sounded and everyone breathed a nervous sigh. Amazingly, Matt Pickens went the wrong way every single time a Columbus shooter was up but we were still in it on the fifth shot. It came down to Brian Carroll for Columbus having to make his shot to keep Columbus in contention and finally Pickens went the right direction. Not that it matter because Carroll struck his shot well over the goal and Rapids were going to have a home playoff game against San Jose.

pre-conference-finalThe atmosphere at the Bulldog before the buses left to the  home game vs Columbus was electric. Four buses had been arranged to shuttle fans to and from the game, giving BSG a serious representation on the terrace. It was great to see my FC Denver boys at the Bulldog before the game, though I didn’t think they were nearly as bundled up as they needed to be with temperatures expected to hover around freezing. I guess all the shots that Eric was buying helped them make it through the game unscathed.

The bus ride over took the energy from the Bulldog and multiplied it. All the newbies to the BSG were duly initiated using the old songs that would be the mainstay of the night. The grounds were buzzing when we got there, the whole tailgate was crowded and the beer was flowing. BSG had come up with four kegs to quench the thirst and a pig roast to build a base for the beer. It was easy to forget the wind with hundreds of people milling around in front of DSG. There was only one sour note played at the tailgate: one San Jose fan threw a punch after the jeers from BSG overwhelmed him. It was nice to see his ticket confiscated and him escorted away by Commerce City police after that.

kosukegoalWhen I entered the stadium, I was quickly reminded by security that it was alright to heckle the other team while they warmed up, but I should really avoid dropping so many F-bombs if I wanted to stay in the park. After an incident at the final game of the year against Real Salt Lake, the staff at Dick’s allowed the return of streamers for this game, and they were able to make their triumphant appearance when Kosuke Kimura looped a cross in for Omar Cummings that happened to find its way into the back corner of the net. A few good saves from Jon Busch “League” kept San Jose close, but in the end it was Colorado hearts that were beating proudly as the Rapids won the Eastern Conference Final.

The week leading up to the Cup seemed like an eternity. All I could talk about was how great the game would be and how there was no way the Rapids would lose to Dallas (they never have in the playoffs). The usual staple of EPL games wasn’t enough to sate my appetite for soccer; I had to see this game.

bsgThe day of the game found me arriving at the Bulldog with my girlfriend Maria around 4:15. I had wanted to be there earlier to secure some space but my steel drum concert had been scheduled in September and I wasn’t going to miss the first one in my blossoming career. As kickoff loomed, the Bulldog kept jamming more people in. I wasn’t sure where they were going but every once in a while I’d notice that my neighbors were just a bit closer to me than they had been before.

When kickoff finally came there wasn’t a spare inch in the Bulldog. Wall to wall people and beer. Everyone in Rapids Burgundy. The songs had started right after we’d arrived and hadn’t stopped since. The staff at the Bulldog did a fantastic job keeping the crowd wet. And even when David Ferreira put his lone mark on the game, the spirit didn’t dampen. “Total eclipse of the Rapids” was sung and the energy picked back up.

celebration1At halftime the line to the bathroom was prohibitive if you wanted to get back to your seat so most people just hoped for an out and out win in the second half. When Conor Casey kicked the ball in while straddling Kevin Hartman, the pub just exploded. Streamers flew across the room, getting caught in the fans and spinning around like a May Day celebration. Throngs of people were jumping up and down, spilling beer in every direction. Glassware was dropped and smashed against the floor. It was the loudest celebration I’d ever heard and then the songs praising Conor Casey started. We were back in it and the bar somehow seemed more full than it was at the start of the game. As we approached overtime the tension was palpable. Outbursts were becoming commonplace as the players staggered toward the finish.

The introduction of new players during the 90th minute led to a sigh of relief among the crowd. Our side had looked tired, unable to finish the job at hand, but now seemed to have new life. With Kandji’s final effort of the season, he once again brought the crowd to its feet. As the ball looped into the corner behind Hartman, you could feel the intake of breath around the room and as it touched down in the goal, it was once again bedlam in the Bulldog. This was a celebration of victory, pulling ahead in the quest for the cup. It was as if the pub rewound to the 55th minute and played it all over again, with streamers flying, more glassware broken, and more noise than I’d thought anyone could make after all the commotion of the first 110 minutes.

champions2010The crowd took it to the next level for the final ten minutes, hoping their support would travel all the way to Toronto as the Rapids struggled to hold on with 10 players. There was never a quiet moment and every player was mentioned, especially Matt Pickens and Drew Moor after their goal saving efforts.

And when the final whistle blew, the crowd raised the roof for a third time, making sure that every block around knew that we had done it. “WE’VE GOT THE CUP, WE’VE GOT THE CUP” reverberated throughout the room. The door kicked open and TV cameras shown in on the celebration. Balloons had been released and were floating through the air, popping as they came down among the jumping revelers. Fans were on the tables, dancing on the bar, chanting in unison to celebrate the victory.

trophypresentationI was overcome and unsure what to think after waiting for 15 years. It finally started making sense the next day when I went out to the Dick to see the team come back from Toronto. As the bus pulled up and Pablo put the Cup in the front window it all started making sense. Fans surrounded Pablo as he paraded the Cup through the crowd, everyone reaching out to get just a touch of the most coveted trophy in American soccer. We wanted it more. The whole of Colorado wanted the Cup more. We wanted it more than the die-hards for San Jose, Columbus, and Dallas because Colorado is THE soccer state and the Rapids are our team, and we wanted it more.