Tuesday December 31st, 2013

Clint Dempsey Clint Dempsey's return to MLS with Seattle was a shocking development in 2013. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

My look back at the moments and stories of 2013 in American soccer began with Part I.

Here’s Part 2, which touches on the second half of the year that included the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Clint Dempsey's shock return to MLS, Mario Balotelli gracing the cover of SI magazine, the wild end to the hex and so much more.

Enjoy:

U.S. men's national team at the Gold Cup The U.S. men topped Panama in July to capture the CONCACAF Gold Cup in Chicago. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

JULY

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash., July 3 — As more Americans embrace soccer, I’ve enjoyed following my own retired parents’ growing immersion in the game, a process I finally write about during our annual 4th of July week vacation in the Pacific Northwest.

PORTLAND, Ore., July 9 — The long Gold Cup adventure begins with the U.S. dismantling Belize. The journey will take us from Portland to Salt Lake City to Hartford, Conn., to Baltimore, Dallas and Chicago. Anytime you can go to Portland it’s a treat, though, plus I get the chance to sit down for the first time with Timbers coach Caleb Porter.

SALT LAKE CITY, July 12 — After our Fox Sports meeting the night before USA-Cuba in the Gold Cup, Gus Johnson is initially skeptical when I say he should join us at the American Outlaws night-before party in town. “Gus, this will give you street cred with U.S. soccer fans,” I tell him. “You mean to get street cred I have to hang with a bunch of white people?” jokes Gus, who’s game. It turns out to be an enormous success, and AO gives Gus an honorary membership.

CHICAGO, July 28 — A day after Eddie Johnson provides a glimpse behind the curtain with him, the U.S. rides a Brek Shea goal to a 1-0 victory over Panama in the Gold Cup final. The final has emotional extremes, from Landon Donovan sealing his return to the national team to Stuart Holden suffering another long-term injury.

Other July stories that I’ll remember:

Brian Phillips on Donovan.

Brian Sciaretta, the tireless tracker of Yanks Abroad, on Julian Green.

From the video vault, the MLS All-Stars fantastic old-school rap video.

AUGUST

Mario Balotelli graced the cover of SI magazine in August, breaking new ground. (Jeffrey A. Salter) Mario Balotelli graced the cover of SI magazine in August, breaking new ground. (Jeffrey A. Salter)

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 — Early August is when top European teams invade the U.S. for their preseason camps, highlighted this year by the Guinness International Champions Cup. Chelsea manager José Mourinho is in fine form for our sit-down in the nation’s capital.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla., Aug. 6 — A year after I started trying to land a Mario Balotelli interview, the most interesting man in the world, soccer variety, gives an entire morning to SI for a photo shoot with Jeffrey Salter and a lengthy interview with me. The result is one of my favorite SI covers of all time.

SEATTLE, Aug. 25 — Clint Dempsey makes his home debut for the Seattle Sounders a couple weeks after making what I would consider the most surprising transfer in MLS history, including a rollicking cloak-and-dagger story of how it happened.

Other August stories that I’ll remember:

Luke O’Brien went to Rome for this excellent piece on Michael Bradley.

Speaking of Roma, Brian Straus did a terrific feature on the club’s American owner, James Pallotta.

Joshua Mayers is one of the top local beat writers in MLS, and he traveled to Texas for this feature on Clint Dempsey.

Brian Phillips had me in tears with this retrospective on the notorious 2002 USMNT photo shoot.

Colorado goalie Clint Irwin on the economic realities of being a pro soccer player in the U.S. 

Steven Goff on Arsenal (and potentially U.S.) prospect Gedion Zelalem.

Jason Sudeikis as Ted Lasso:

SEPTEMBER

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, Sept. 6 — The amusing U.S.-Costa Rica soccer rivalry, post-SnowClásico, gets the treatment it deserves from Keith Olbermann.

Meanwhile, I have my first sit-down with emerging forward Aron Jóhannsson. But Costa Rica turns out to be its usual house of horrors for the U.S., which loses Michael Bradley to a freak injury in warm-ups—and then loses the game 3-1.

Landon Donovan vs. Mexico Landon Donovan celebrates in the midst of another Dos A Cero triumph over Mexico in Columbus, Ohio. (Cal Sport Media/AP)

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Sept. 10 — In another "Dos a Cero" for the ages, the U.S. thumps archrival Mexico and qualifies for World Cup 2014 with two games to spare.

CAIRO, Sept. 13 — Less than three days after the U.S. secures its World Cup bid, Bob Bradley sits down with me in Cairo for the first of several long interviews for an SI magazine story on his remarkable tenure as the coach of the Egyptian national team.

DOHA, Qatar, Sept. 18 — For an SI story that will appear in 2014, I parachute into Qatar for the first time, conducting interviews, visiting the site of the 2022 World Cup final and witnessing what a falcon store looks like.

Other September stories that I’ll remember:

Pete Pattisson’s reporting on the treatment of Nepalese migrant workers in Qatar is jaw-dropping (including the video).

Sam Borden on the challenges of building a World Cup stadium in the middle of the Amazon is especially pertinent after the U.S. draws a game in Manaus.

Kyle McCarthy on U.S. soccer player development.

Brian Straus on Columbus as the home of Dos a Cero.

Graham Zusi, Brad Davis Graham Zusi and Brad Davis celebrate after connecting for the goal that eliminated Panama and kept rival Mexico alive in World Cup contention. (Arnulfo Franco/AP)

OCTOBER

KANSAS CITY, Kan., Oct. 10 — On the night before the U.S. beats Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier, Jurgen Klinsmann sheds light that he wants to continue in his job as U.S. coach beyond World Cup 2014. It’s a precursor to the December announcement that Klinsmann has extended his contract through 2018 and become the U.S. technical director as well.

NEW YORK CITY, Oct. 15 — With nothing at stake for the U.S., I skip my only Hex game of the year, but that doesn’t mean the night is without high drama. With a stoppage-time goal by Graham Zusi, the U.S. saves its biggest rival, Mexico, from World Cup elimination and bounces Panama from the playoff against New Zealand. Zusi will end up getting the nickname Saint Zusi from thankful Mexico fans.

Other October stories that I’ll remember:

Will Parchman compares MLS players to literary figures.

Brian Straus interviews Salt Lake’s (now NYC FC’s) Jason Kreis (Part 1 and Part 2).

Graham Parker writes on New York’s Mike Petke (Part 1 and Part 2).

Doug McIntyre gets a unanimous response from MLS coaches on Donovan vs. Dempsey.

NOVEMBER

NEW YORK CITY, Nov. 8 — France ’98 World Cup hero Lilian Thuram is also a leading voice on racism and soccer, and that’s the topic for our talk on the stage at New York University.

Other November stories that I’ll remember:

Ives Galarcep with a long and insightful portrait on Portland manager Caleb Porter.

Sam Borden on the American in Barcelona’s youth academy, Ben Lederman.

Leander Schaerlaeckens’ in-depth series on college soccer.

Jeré Longman and Taylor Barnes on a horrific double-murder in Brazil.

Jonathan Wilson on Iceland’s movie-directing goalkeeper.

Caitlin Dewey on Briana Scurry’s battles with concussions.

Rick Maese on Shawn Kuykendall’s fight against cancer.

USA World Cup draw The USA was drawn into a true Group of Death for the 2014 World Cup, getting paired with Germany, Ghana and Portugal. (Silvia Izquierdo/AP)

DECEMBER

COSTA DO SAUÍPE, Brazil, Dec. 6 — While Straus covers a dramatic MLS Cup final won by Kansas City for SI.com, I get to see the U.S. draw its most difficult World Cup ever: Germany, Portugal and Ghana. Still, though, it’s a group that’s filled with opportunity, as Klinsmann explains. Bahia is just one stop on a two-week trip to Brazil for a 2014 SI magazine story, and for all the dissatisfaction among Brazilians over the public spending on the tournament, it’s still the world’s spiritual home of soccer. That hits home when my Fox Sports producer, Kayla Knapp, and I are given an official World Cup match ball and see how excited Brazilians are to have their pictures taken with it.

Jimmy Nielsen Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen lifts the MLS Cup trophy after coming up big in a tense penalty kick shootout. (Colin E. Braley/AP)

Other December stories that I’ll remember:

Wright Thompson tremendous again, this time on the protest movement in Brazil.

Brian Straus goes one-on-one with MLS commissioner Don Garber: Part 1 and Part 2.

David Roth gives you a great idea of what it’s like to be on the ground in Qatar.

Richard Sandomir with a great profile on commentator Ray Hudson.

Doug McIntyre on whether MLS is expanding too fast.

------------- I hope you enjoyed following soccer in 2013 as much as I did. And the great thing is 2014 should be even better!

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.