Soccer in 2010: Top o’ the World Cup
It was a year that promised much and delivered even more.
Soccer provided its fans with a constant stream of entertainment, controversy and drama and captivated a willing audience. And for a few heady mid-summer weeks, the World Cup held the nation in its grasp. So it is no surprise that six of our top 10 stories of 2010 carry some relation to the planet’s greatest tournament.
From bungling referees to brilliant Spaniards, the event gave its followers countless topics for discussion as soccer gained a temporary relevance in America that it has never enjoyed before. Then there was that goal, that moment, when time froze and one man sealed the defining moment of his career with a flick of his right foot.
But before we get to that, let’s count down all of this year’s top stories.
10. Red Bull revolution
There used to be one star-studded team in Major League Soccer with no one else willing to match the Los Angeles Galaxy’s spending, ambition and celebrity status. But the New York Red Bulls changed all that this summer by splashing cash out on Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez and throwing down the gauntlet to the Galaxy.
Defeat in the first round of the playoffs was a major disappointment for the Red Bulls, but they have made a powerful signal of intent. More expensive signings can be expected.
A cross-country rivalry between its two biggest clubs could be just what MLS needs.
9. Bradley remains U.S. coach
The United States achieved its target – but no better – at the World Cup. The ambition of qualifying for the knockout stage was accomplished in dramatic fashion (see No. 1 on this list). A subsequent defeat to Ghana was a letdown, though, and left head coach Bob Bradley in limbo.
U.S. Soccer once again flirted with Juergen Klinsmann and, just like four years ago, it failed to come to an agreement. Bradley was somewhat unrealistically linked with English Premier League sides Fulham and Aston Villa, but he was eventually happy to ink a new contract that takes him past the next World Cup in 2014.
8. Red Sox invade Anfield
After suffering through the miserable reign of American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Liverpool fans found solace with another group from across the Atlantic.
Enter John W. Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox, who made his first foray into soccer with a $500 million acquisition of the famous old club, following Hicks and Gillett’s frantic attempts to block the sale through legal action. Heavy spending, and surely better times, await for the Reds.
7. Beckham misses World Cup
David Beckham’s courageous attempt to become the first England player to take part in four World Cups took him all the way to Italy, where he embarked upon a loan spell with AC Milan for the second straight season in a bid to impress national team coach Fabio Capello.
All was going to plan. Beckham played well enough for Capello to effectively guarantee him a place in the squad – that is, until his Achilles snapped on a fateful March afternoon and ruined his South African dream.
6. The Special One’s special season
The three trophies Inter Milan racked up last season doesn’t even begin to tell the full story of a dramatic campaign, one in which Jose Mourinho dragged the club to unexpected glory by the sheer weight of his personality.
Mourinho cemented his reputation as the best in the business by willing Inter to victories over Chelsea, Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the Champions League, a tournament which the Nerazzurri began as firm outsiders but prevailed with a tenacious approach and the force of their coach.
5. Qatar awarded 2022 World Cup
FIFA shot itself in the foot by handing Qatar, a nation with less than a million people and one major city, the 2022 World Cup. As soccer fans shook their heads in bewilderment and pondered the sweltering temperatures of the Middle East, the U.S. was left to rue a missed opportunity as it failed in its attempt to stage the tournament.
Controversy was rife and Qatar’s heavy-spending ways came under scrutiny. But whatever the conjecture, the decision is in – the World Cup will head to the Middle East in 12 years’ time.
4. World Cup refs get it wrong
Could a man from Mali ever have generated such a reaction in the United States? Referee Koman Coulibaly gained that dubious distinction during the World Cup thanks to his blown call in disallowing Maurice Edu’s would-be winner against Slovenia. Coulibaly was not seen again for the rest of the tournament, but he was not the only official to lose the plot in South Africa.
England’s Frank Lampard saw a valid goal waved off against Germany even though the ball crossed the line by two feet. Also, Carlos Tevez’s header for Argentina against Mexico was blatantly offside but allowed to stand.
3. Rooney holds United to ransom
For a few crazy days, Wayne Rooney’s Manchester United career looked to be done, after the player publicly announced his intention to leave the club and snub a new contract offer.
Cross-town rival Manchester City seemed to be the most likely destination following Rooney’s bitter public dispute with manager Sir Alex Ferguson. But the disagreement was over before it really started.
Only a few days passed before a lucrative new deal was signed by Rooney, who secured promises from the Glazer family that money would be spent on new players.
2. Spanish eyes shining
The World Cup ended up in the hands of a collection of modern maestros – the brilliant Spanish, who won their second straight major tournament in South Africa.
The reigning European champions opened with a shocking loss to Switzerland, but after that, Spain was rarely troubled. The magnificence of midfield superstars Xavi and Andres Iniesta was beyond question, and the Netherlands was so overwhelmed that its only idea in the final was to try to kick the Spanish to pieces. It didn’t work. Spain won 1-0 on a goal dedicated to a late friend.
1. Donovan’s magical moment
For a player who had endured more than his fair share of criticism it was a defining moment, one which silenced some critics and gave him a place in national team folklore.