Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Ones Where You Flip A Coin, But It Lands On Its Edge

So we're back on the retroactive American Abroad of the Year train and this stretch of the trip down memory lane was haaard, man. Three of the four decisions listed below were ones I went back and forth on, incessantly so in two of the cases.

10/11 Clint Dempsey

I was so very close to giving this one to Maurice Edu, who was outstanding on the way to a Scottish double and bagged two huge goals in Europe, including a last-gasp knockout tie-stealer at Sporting CP. I even thought about cheating with shared winners this time. But in the end, only one could be chosen and Dempsey's competitive edge won out. And that's not just to say that his 13 goals came against better foes. The double meaning is that among those strikes were four icebreakers, three winners (the goal in the clip above counts as both) and three second half equalizers. That penchant for the big plays is why he earned his first Fulham Player of the Season award, and how (spoiler alert) he bridged an AAotY three-peat.

09/10 Clint Dempsey

Talk about whatever you want. Talk about his 12 goals and seven assists. Talk about becoming the first American to play in a Europa League final (and the first to suffer near the finish line when Atlético Madrid scored the winner two minutes from penalties). Sure, sure, but who are we kidding? The reality is Deuce had this in the bag the moment he scooped home that impossibly bodacious rally-capper to see off mighty Juventus a few rounds earlier. Both American fans and Fulham supporters will be talking about that moment until the end of time.

08/09 Oguchi Onyewu

A few strong campaigns just missed out this time: Dempsey effectively broke out with eight goals, Jermaine Jones had arguably his best Bundesliga season and Charlie Davies balled out for Hammarby. They all fell just short to Gooch, who practically willed Standard Liège to a title repeat. Onyewu (who, it must be noted, scored some biggies among his six goals - see below), was massive during the regular season and in UEFA Cup play. To cap it off, he slammed the door hard on arch rivals Anderlecht in the second leg of a nail-biting Jupiler League championship playoff.

07/08 Michael Bradley

This year saw a crowded field of very worthy candidates. Tim Howard posted 18 shutouts, including four in the UEFA Cup. Jones was among the top midfielders in the Bundesliga and starred in a Champions League run to the quarters. Brad Friedel was excellent as Blackburn finished seventh. Oguchi Onyewu picked up his second Belgian Best XI honor by holding down the fort as Standard won its first league crown in 25 years. Danny Califf splendidly did the same to help Aalborg BK snap a nine-year title drought. All would make a fine pick, and we haven't even mentioned Dempsey or DaMarcus Beasley. And yet, it has to be Bradley, doesn't it? He turned an odd assignment into 18 goals and six assists across all matches. At one point, the 20-year-old scored in seven straight games. He wasn't just Heerenveen's late man into the box, he was needed proof that European clubs could find youth talent to develop into impact players/sale items in America and MLS.

- Greg Seltzer

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