U.S. Soccer announced on Monday evening the five finalists for U.S. Soccer’s Male Athlete of the Year award, and the cast of candidates raises an interesting question about just who is most deserving of that honor.
The award is for contributions both to the national team and their club teams, a combination that kept four-time winner Landon Donovan off the ballot after a year that saw him play sparingly for the national team.
The five finalists for the award, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Herculez Gomez, Tim Howard and Fabian Johnson, all enjoyed strong seasons for both club and country, but the award this year is a two-horse race between Dempsey and Bradley.
On one side you have Bradley, who not only locked down the U.S. midfield and put together some truly outstanding performances (such as his showing in the national team’s win vs. Italy), but also became a regular in Serie A, and became the first U.S. national team starter to carry a regular role for a big Serie A team.
On the other side you have Clint Dempsey, who put together a record-breaking year with Fulham before making a successful move to Tottenham, where he has settled in as a regular.
His national team exploits included some of the biggest matches of the year, and some of the most important goals (such as the winner vs. Italy and the brace against Guatemala in the Hex-clinching victory).
It is tough not to look at Dempsey’s year and consider it one of the best and most complete in recent memory, which is why he is a good bet to beat out Bradley for the award despite Bradley putting together an outstanding year.
The rest of the finalists had good years, but fall a notch below the favorites. Truth be told, Fabian Johnson falls into an even lower tier. He had a good season on the club side, but isn’t on par with the other four players in either category. In fact, given Steve Cherundolo’s success with Hannover 96 last season, and some of his outstanding national team games in 2012, you can make an argument he has had a better all-around year than Johnson.
Tim Howard enjoyed another strong season for both club and country while Herculez Gomez helped Santos Laguna win a Mexican League title and reach the final of the CONCACAF Champions League, all while establishing himself as a regular starter for the national team. Both could have won in other years, but in 2012 they fall behind Dempsey and Bradley.
So here is our question for you. Who gets your vote for U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year?
Cast your official vote on the U.S. Soccer Facebook page, but also cast your vote here:
Who did you select? Who would you have put on the ballot that didn’t make it?
Share your thoughts below.