U.S. women crowned again
For the first time since 1999, America has a world champion national soccer team. After the heartbreak of losing the 2011 World Cup final on penalties to Japan, the U.S. women’s national team seized redemption in the form of a 5-2 thrashing of the Japanese in this summer’s final.
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It wasn’t always smooth sailing for the USWNT, though, as struggles during the group stage and early knockout rounds cast doubt in the eyes of an entire nation. Jill Ellis’s side had finally rounded into form once they reached the semifinals, though, and were able to send a whole host of USWNT legends into the sunset as world champions.
A year to forget for the U.S. men’s team
The U.S. men’s national team peaked in 2015 not long before the women’s side, in early June with a pair of friendly victories over the Netherlands and Germany. Here’s why that’s a problem: the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup kicked off 23 days later, and nothing close to the heights of knocking off two of Europe’s most powerful soccer nations was on the cards for Jurgen Klinsmann’s bunch.
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While a fourth-place finish was the Americans’ worst at the Gold Cup since 2000 (fifth), the real USMNT story of 2015 was Klinsmann himself. This year the legendary German striker engaged in public spats with his players, the media, and MLS commissioner Don Garber. There were also excuses. Hopefully 2016 is a time where we can focus more on the USMNT’s positive results on the field, rather than never-ending debates over the head coach’s job.
Giovinco takes MLS by storm
22 goals and 16 assists — never before has a player in MLS history put together a season like Sebastian Giovinco’s 2015, let alone done so in his debut campaign. From game 1 to game 34, Giovinco was beyond brilliant for Toronto FC, who with many thanks to Giovinco’s contributions, made their first playoff appearance in club history. Still only 28 years old (he’ll be 29 by opening day in March), it’s hard to imagine the diminutive Italian not continuing to dominate the league for a couple more years, at least.
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Timbers reach the MLS summit
For the next 12 months, the Portland Timbers get to call themselves the reigning MLS Cup champions, which will massively annoying their Cascadia neighbors to the north, the Seattle Sounders, and further north, the Vancouver Whitecaps. Their 2015 MLS Cup triumph over Columbus Crew SC makes the Rose City side the first from the Pacific Northwest to wear MLS’s postseason crown. The best may still be yet to come from the Timbers, as Darlington Nagbe, who is now a USMNT player, finally has a permanent position.
Veteran European stars struggle in maiden MLS voyage
Thanks to Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo, 2015 might just go down as the year where MLS naysayers began to accept the league is no longer a retirement league for aging European stars looking for one last payday and an easy ride into the sunset. All three struggled to make a positive impact for their new sides (LA Galaxy for Gerrard; New York City FC for Lampard and Pirlo), though they did enter the league squarely behind the 8-ball as midseason signings, which rarely pay immediate dividends — Didier Drogba being the obvious exception to the rule.
Closely related: NYCFC’s massively underwhelming debut season in MLS, to those out there who thought the league would be a cakewalk for a club with big money.