MLSsoccer.com polled 20 of our editors, writers, videographers and statistics specialists to bring you the Best of 2012, running Dec. 17 through Jan. 2. Each day we'll hand out an award in a variety of categories culled from the storylines of MLS and US international players, including Biggest Controversy, Breakout Player of the Year and, via fan vote revealed on Dec. 31, the Moment of the Year.
American Exports correspondent Greg Seltzer is on Clint Dempsey duty once again this year, breaking down why Deuce won the American Export of the Year for the second consecutive year, despite some tougher competitiion from his cohorts in Europe.
Despite stiff competition from the runners-up in this category, it was Deuce who came up aces again. Dempsey's winning hand included 14 goals and three assists over the first part of the year spent with Fulham, and since making the contentious move across London to Tottenham Hotspur, he has added three more tallies and another five helpers to reach rare air for American attackers in Europe.
For the year, the US star notched a goal and/or an assist in 17 of his 36 starts. Dempsey went three consecutive starts without making the scoresheet in some official manner only twice. After it happened with Fulham in March, he bagged four goals in the next three games. In November with Spurs, he rallied out of the mini-rut for three goals and two assists in the next four outings.
Along the way, he's had some great fun with us all watching. Dempsey hit hat tricks two weeks apart in January. Not long after yet another late equalizer against arch nemesis Chelsea, he was named Fulham Player of the Season for the second spring running.
In September, Dempsey's first Spurs strike was also his first-ever goal against Manchester United, a 3-2 winner that snapped the club's 23-year drought at Old Trafford. In December, he forced his third own-goal of 2012 with a bullet header ricochet that secured Tottenham's place in the Europa League knockouts – familiar terrain for the 2010 finalist.
Dempsey always said he wanted to play in the Champions League. Now, after a start razzed with overwrought expectations, he is finally getting to help take a team there. Onward and upward, with a Deuce face.
2. Michael Bradley
You want to talk about impact? Try starting ahead of Daniele De Rossi in the heat of Rome when you'd spent the first half of the year in fair Verona. The General marches on overseas, covering more ground than a human should with equal parts menace and function. It's one thing to make your Serie A name in a "rookie" campaign with Chievo and it's another to quickly capture the respect of Roma's nutty faithful in a side at least twice as deep. In 2012, Bradley did both.
3. Jozy Altidore
Earnie Stewart doesn't need much help looking smart, but the AZ Alkmaar power forward has certainly made the effort. Altidore set new American standards for European scoring with 26 goals and nine games with two or more during this calendar year. Just for fun, Altidore added eight assists, second-best on his team in 2012.