Soccer Watch: Top 10 Soccer Stories of the Year
The usual suspects: Aztex, Beckham, Messi, and more
1) The Aztex are back It was a great first season for the new Austin Aztex – solid management, a few genuine pro prospects, a playoff berth and first-round win – I can't wait for the team's second season to kick off in April. (Wanna try out? See listings.)
2) A new regime at UT Head coach Angela Kelly's first season had its moments, but ended with a familiarly mediocre 8-10-2 record, and no whiff of an NCAA bid.
3) Gender Equity at St. Ed's? We've gotten used to the women going 18-3 and earning top-10 national rankings, but this year's men's team went 12-3-3, undefeated in their last 13 games, and ranked 24th in the nation.
4) Kylie Doniak UT's top scorer the past two seasons was run down by a hit-and-run drunk driver in February, causing multiple fractures and severe short-term memory loss that make her "a young child trapped in a 22-year-old's body," according to a lawsuit filed on her behalf in August.
5) The San Antonio Scorpions had a spectacular debut season: NASL regular-season champs, average attendance of 9,176 – and with any luck, we'll see the start of the Aztex-Scorpions rivalry in this season's U.S. Open Cup.
6) Galaxy repeat as MLS champions, but with the departure of David Beckham, and the possible retirement (?!?) of Landon Donovan, the league's marquee franchise may be a little less star-studded this year.
7) Women's Pro Soccer folds; National Women's Soccer League announced The bad news came in January, as the three-year-old WPS folded, leaving most of the top players in the world out of work. The good news came Nov. 29, when U.S. Soccer announced the eight-team NWSL, with full backing of the U.S., Canadian, and Mexican soccer federations.
8) Spain dominates Euro 2012 It may have been the strongest field ever assembled for a soccer tournament, but no one could touch the Spaniards, who gave up one goal in six games, and crushed a very good Italian team, 4-0 in the final.
9) USA, Mexico win Olympic Gold The U.S. women appear to be back on top of the world: dominant and redeemed in England after falling one game short in last year's World Cup. On the men's side, Mexico – building on a couple of years of impressive regional and youth team success (see my Top 10 last year) – shocked the world by stuffing heavily-favored Brazil in the final.
10) Lionel Messi scored 91 goals in 2012 in all competitions, for Barcelona and Argentina, breaking the record for a single year, and almost certainly earning an unprecedented fourth straight Ballon d'Or award as the best player in the world.