The18’s Year In Review: Our Favorites From 2018

The18 staff looks back on the year that was, from World Cup performances to predictions for 2019.

Well, 2018 was something, wasn’t it?

Soccer in 2018 had a thrilling World Cup in Russia and an engrossing Women’s World Cup qualifying campaign around the world. Real Madrid (again!) won the Champions League and Manchester City had a record year in the Prem. Atlanta United obliterated attendance records in the U.S. while the USMNT took more than 400 days to hire a coach. El Tri gave fans hope at the World Cup with a win over Germany, only to once again go out in the Round of 16. 

So as 2018 comes to an end and we head into 2019, we thought we’d look back on the year that was. We asked our staff here at The18 questions about the year in soccer. Here are their answers.

Soccer In 2018

Which player who retired in 2018 will you miss the most?

Connor Fleming (Staff Writer): Clint Dempsey — a part of me is gone with him. Honorable mention to Real Sociedad legend Xabi Preto. 

Bryce Badwan (Project Manager): Iniesta. Going to play in China counts as retiring, right?
Mariel McCown (Videographer): Didier Drogba
Travis Yoesting (Staff Writer): I’d like to say Clint Dempsey, but I’m gonna have to go with Bobby Boswell, for the Dad Jokes.

Manchester City winning the Premier League with such ease was ____ . 

Brant Backlund (Video Editor): Like opening an avocado to find it is all brown and rotten, ... a serious let down.
Pete Burrdige (President & CEO): Inspiring. And, reminiscent of dominant sports teams in other sports and past dominate soccer teams - '85 Bears, Barcelona with young Messi, Manchester United in late '90s, Boston Celtics in the '70s. ... Of course, they will need to win a couple more over the course of the next 3-5 seasons to reach anything close to the others on my list. They sure seem stacked though.
Travis: Boringly exciting. It was fun to watch such a brilliant team, but it would’ve been nice if they had a little more competition. 
Matt Jenkins (COO & Co-Founder): Impressive.
Connor: Modern football at its b£st. 
Fletcher Ryan (Video Producer): Boring
Mariel: Pretty boring.
Bryce: Lame but awesome because watching them is a real treat.

What song best sums up your feelings on the 2018 World Cup?

Bryce: When the beat drops in Sport - O - Let me Hit It

Travis: Wicked Games by Chris Isaak. 
Pete: Rolling Stones — I Can't Get No Satisfaction 
Connor: 

Fletcher: "DARE" by Gorillaz
Brant: Young Forever — Jay Z. Lots of young breakout stars.
Matt: Crazy Train — Ozzy Osbourne
Mariel: thank u, next

How did you feel about the World Cup without the USMNT?

Matt: The same way I feel about spaghetti without meatballs.
Travis: It was pretty tough to watch Panama represent Concacaf so poorly while the USMNT stayed home. But the U.S. has only itself to blame.
Saul Huerta (Accountant): Wasn't the same without the USMNT.
Fletcher: FOMO
Pete: Pissed.
Connor: There was no replacing the excitement/joy of the three group stage matches, but once the tournament kicked off, I didn’t really think about it. Considering how our superiors Panama played, our absence was a great gift to the footballing world. 
Bryce: Over it. Fuck you, Bruce.
Mariel: Not really sympathetic toward them. Should have tried harder.
Brant: Gutted, disappointed, frustrated.

What was your favorite part of the World Cup?

Mariel: France winning — I won the office pool.
Matt: England’s run. 
Travis: Watching England fans get their hopes up.
Connor: All things Argentina for the drama, Eden Hazard’s play against Brazil for the poetry. 
Fletcher: Geico's "Longest Goal Celebration Ever" TV spot

Saul: Mexico over Germany.
Bryce: Not only having games everyday, but the amount of drama in the final 10 minutes of games everyday. It was truly one of the craziest World Cups. You can relive it all here. The Argentina drama was entertaining and Uruguay beating Portugal was glorious.
Brant: Watching Chucky Lozano on the world stage
Pete: Croatia by far. They play like a team should play — sum of the parts ... 

What was your least favorite part of the World Cup?

Matt: England's “it’s coming home” nonsense.
Mariel: Messi not doing well. I like Messi; he's a nice guy and people said some bad things about him after that.
Saul: Neymar flopping.
Connor: Either Neymar or Poland. 
Pete: France winning.
Fletcher: Russia making it as far as it did.
Bryce: The U.S. not being in it and the amount of hate on VAR.
Brant: The U.S. not being there.
Travis: Having to watch it on Fox

What did you think of France winning the World Cup?

Travis: I felt vindicated. They were the best team.
Mariel: See above: I won money.
Pete: See above, insert poop emoji here
Connor: Not as sexy as Belgium or as likable as Croatia, but the best team all around and capable of winning in all manner of ways. 
Fletcher: I thought it was better than Russia winning.
Saul: Well deserved.
Bryce: Deserved. 
Brant: They were a fun team to watch.
Matt:

Did Luka Modric deserve the Ballon d’Or?

Brant: Yes, he's an under the radar baller and I'm sick of Messi and Ronaldo winning every year.
Connor: Yes. The World Cup Golden Ball winner should be the favorite, but then you factor in his UCL play and there’s no question. A great victory for the midfielders of the world.   
Pete: Absolutely.
Fletcher: Yes, absolutely.
Saul: Yes.
Mariel: Yeah! He's really good; I like some variation for once.
Matt: Yes.
Bryce: No.
Travis: Luka was great — is great — but to suggest he’s better than Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi is silly. 

Worse decision: Lionel Messi voted fifth-best in the world or Mo Salah winning the Puskas?

Travis: Both are pretty dumb but I’ll go with Mo Salah just because Liverpool fans are annoying.
Connor: We all know Messi isn’t the fifth-best player in the world, but the Salah goal was an absolute joke. 
Fletcher: Lionel Messi voted fifth-best in the world.
Saul: Messi by far even though Luka deserved winning.
Bryce: Both are egregious and both really bothered me. But I'll go Salah winning the Puskas. His goal was probably the lamest of all the nominees. 
Brant: Leo Messi is better than fifth.
Mariel: Messi probably is better than fifth.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Juventus was ____ .

Mariel: Pretty lame. They don't need him.
Bryce: Weird.
Saul: Hard getting used to.
Connor: Not all that shocking and good for the Champions League narrative (but not good for the Serie A title “race”).
Fletcher: A money grab.
Travis: All about him.
Pete: A mistake for him, a huge win for Serie A.
Matt: OK.
Brant: I don't like Ronaldo.

Which feels longer, the amount of time between the final Game of Thrones half-seasons or the time it took the USMNT to hire a coach?

Pete: U.S. Soccer is competing with U.S. Gymnastics for the most absurd U.S. sports governing body — they both make the NCAA seem like geniuses.
Connor: I kinda got used to the idea of the USMNT not really existing, so probably the coaching search.  
Travis: Definitely the latter, because at least HBO was working on Game of Thrones the entire time, while U.S. Soccer didn’t even really start looking until it hired Earnie Stewart as GM in the summer.
Fletcher: Game of Thrones new season.
Saul: USMNT
Bryce: The USMNT to hire a coach. Waiting for GoT is expected. Waiting over 400 days to hire a person is insane.
Matt: USMNT coach.

On a scale of Jeff Larentowicz to Josef Martinez, how impressive has Atlanta United been since joining the league?

Travis: Josef Martinez. They kick ass on the field and filling up the stadium too.
Matt: Brad Guzan, in that it's impressive they have managed to win in spite of him.
Fletcher: Josef Martinez.
Bryce: They are a unicorn. It's unreal and so great for the sport in this country.
Connor: They’ve been awesome; from the attendances to the attacking play to the minutes for young Americans like Miles Robinson, George Bello and Andrew Carleton, they’re the benchmark for the rest of the league. 
Saul: It was a great story, fun to watch.
Mariel: Not sure of the scale but they've been extremely impressive.

Rapid Fire

Tata Martino or Gregg Berhalter?

Travis: Tata 
Pete: Gregg Berhalter 
Connor: Gregg Berhalter. Let’s go.   
Fletcher: Tata Martino 
Saul: Tata 
Bryce: Tata 
Mariel: Gregg 
Matt: Gregg Berhalter

Kylian Mbappé or Pelé?

Bryce: Mbappé. Sorry Viejo.
Pete: Seriously? That is a ridiculous question. 
Brant: How can you go against Pelé?
Connor: Kylian Mbappé is very fast. 
Fletcher: Pelé
Saul: Pelé
Travis: Mbappé. Pelé’s legs aren’t what they used to be.
Matt: Pelé
Mariel: Kylian

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Chucky Lozano or Christian Pulisic?

Travis: Pulisic, but he needs a better nickname.
Pete: Pulisic
Connor: Christian Pulisic because more tekkers. 
Fletcher: Christian Pulisic.
Saul: Elllllll Chuky Lozanoooooo
Bryce: Puli!
Brant: Pulisic
Mariel: Chucky
Matt: Pulisic

FIFA 19 or Red Dead Redemption 2?

Connor: FIFA 19. It’s a gift and a curse, but certainly more of the latter. 
Travis: Red Dead Redemption 2
Fletcher: RDR2
Saul: FIFA 19
Bryce: FIFA 19
Brant: Red Dead
Mariel: FIFA
Matt: Red Dead Redemption 2

Marouane Fellaini or Gritty?

Travis: Gritty
Pete: Gritty
Connor: Gritty is a worker. 
Fletcher: Gritty
Bryce: Gritty — 100 times out of 100
Brant: Gritty
Mariel: Gritty
Matt: Fellaini

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2019 Predictions

Can anyone beat the USWNT at the World Cup next summer?

Fletcher: My magic 8-ball says "very doubtful.”
Saul: Watch out for France.
Travis: The USWNT is beatable. But I don’t think it’ll be beaten in France.
Connor: One of the current European powers of Germany, England and France has the best shot, but no. 
Pete: I hope not.
Bryce: Yeah. They should be unbeatable, but I'll never forget the 2011 World Cup.
Brant: No way
Mariel: Not sure, maybe Brazil?
Matt: No

Who wins the Champions League this season?

Mariel: Hopefully not Real Madrid. Potentially PSG or Juventus
Connor: Manchester City
Fletcher: Man City
Saul: Man City
Matt: Man City
Travis: Juventus. But it won’t be pretty.
Pete: PSG, now that would be interesting.
Bryce: Barcelona or Juve
Brant: Liverpool

Who wins the Premier League this season?

Travis: Manchester City
Pete: Man City
Connor: Liverpool
Fletcher: Man City
Saul: Man City
Bryce: Manchester City
Brant: Chelsea
Mariel: Hopefully not Man City. Chelsea. Leon said so.
Matt: Tottenham

Does Lionel Messi play international football again?

Connor: Yes, he’ll play at the 2019 Copa. 
Brant: Yes, still has something to prove.
Fletcher: Yes.
Saul: I think he will; competitive nature will enable him to give it one more shot.
Bryce: I think he will. But they need to figure a lot of stuff out around him before he probably feels comfortable putting that shirt on again.
Mariel: Probably.
Matt: Yes.
Travis: Yes, but not in a major competition.
Pete: I sure hope so

Does Gregg Berhalter remain USMNT coach through the 2022 World Cup cycle?

Pete: I sure hope so Take 2
Matt: No. 
Travis: Yes, if only because U.S. Soccer really needs to prove it got the call right after waiting 14 months.
Mariel: Probably not. 
Connor: Yes. It’s not exactly a cutthroat job before then. 
Fletcher: Yes.
Saul: Yes. Do they want to go through this process again?!
Bryce: He better. They had 400 days to hone in on this hire. How could he possibly fail?! 
Brant: I hope so. I have to think the U.S. program is at rock bottom and the only direction is up.

Superlatives

What was the most awkward moment of 2018?

Travis: When the idiot with a mic asked Ada Hegerberg to twerk after she won the Ballon d’Or. Honorable mention to Donald Trump showing a red card to the media
Bryce: Every time the scary Russian PA announcer voice would come on before the teams walked out of the tunnel at the World Cup.
Matt: Loris Karius UCL final meltdown

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Pete: Any time someone from U.S. Soccer spoke publicly about making decisions.
Fletcher: Putin being the only world leader at the rainy World Cup trophy presentation with an umbrella.
Brant: Pogba / Mourinho relationship.
Mariel: Awkward. Hmm. Mo Salah being priced too high on fantasy but everyone buying him anyway. Suckers. Actually also this: When everyone in England said "It's Coming Home" and then it didn't come home.
Connor: All the footballers and clubs we deify that turn out to be abysmal dumpsters of humanity. 

What was the craziest story of 2018?

Travis: Las Vegas Lights’ $5K cash drop.
Connor: The USMNT defeating Mexico in September via Matt Miazga trolling Diego Lainez about his height was some next-level shithousery. 
Mariel: That Kante story where he had dinner with a fan.
Fletcher: FIFA removes “corruption” from its code of ethics.
Bryce: The entire Newcastle, Rafa Benitez, Mike Ashley drama.
Brant: The fact that a team was eliminated from the World Cup on fair play points.
Pete: To me, Ronaldo going to Serie A is just "off brand" and a career mistake.
Matt: Thai soccer team stranded in cave.

What was your favorite story of 2018?

Matt: Thai soccer team rescued from cave.
Bryce: When I met Jose Richard and Cesar Daza at the Barcelona-Girona match. 
Connor: I really enjoyed Diego Maradona at Dorados and everything the Las Vegas Lights did. 
Brant: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ... and Trevor Noah's take on the French team.
Travis: College player gets puppy for scoring golazo
Pete: The Croatia team and its long history together as players.
Fletcher: Christian Pulisic named USMNT captain.
Mariel: The whole Mourinho-Pogba drama.

What was your least favorite story of 2018?

Travis: Bleacher Report Live nickel and diming soccer fans
Connor: Usain Bolt playing soccer
Fletcher: Man City dominating the Premier League.
Matt: The USMNT not in the World Cup.
Saul: Neymar Flopping & FIFA Corruption.
Bryce: The people dying building stadiums for the corrupt Qatar World Cup.
Brant: The tragic reason for Mesut Ozil retiring from Germany. 
Pete: Me not winning the office EPL fantasy league.
Mariel: Fellaini pulling that dude's hair. V immature.

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What was your favorite goal of 2018?

Travis: Aaron Ramsey vs. Fulham.
Connor: The Benjamin Pavard half-volley really had it all. 
Fletcher: Gareth Bale UCL final bicycle kick goal.
Saul: Hirving Lozano vs. Germany.

Bryce: Cristiano's bike vs Juventus or Nacho's goal vs Portugal
Brant: Chucky Lozano's goal against Germany
Mariel: Bale bicycle UCL final.
Matt: Belgium team goal vs. Japan (with Lukaku passing up the ball) at the World Cup.

Who was your favorite female player in 2018?

Connor: Lieke Martens. The Netherlands will be fun to watch in France. 
Fletcher: Alex Morgan
Saul: Alex Morgan … just because. 
Bryce: Megan Rapinoe
Brant: Marta
Pete: Tobin Heath is a beast even though she is ancient.
Mariel: Rapinoe
Matt: Tobin Heath.
Travis: I love the Heaths, Rapinoes and Martenses, but I gotta go with Yenith Bailey, Panama goalkeeper. She was awesome in nearly getting Panama to the 2019 World Cup.

Who was your favorite male player in 2018?

Saul: Chucky Lozano
Matt: Mo Salah
Travis: Kylian Mbappé. He’s so fun to watch.
Connor: Kevin De Bruyne is difficult to comprehend. 
Pete: I know he has been injured, but I really like the way Kevin De Bruyne plays.
Fletcher: Luka Modric
Brant: Eden Hazard
Bryce: Lucas Torreira
Mariel: Grizzy

What was your favorite moment of 2018?

Connor: When Cavani ripped a raker at Luis Suarez, Suarez whipped in a cross at Cavani and Cavani smashed in his header, thus finally ending Portugal’s reign of terror at major international tournaments. 
Fletcher: North America being selected for World Cup 2026 location.
Pete: Loyola's women's team pushing eventual NCAA champion Florida State to the limit in a 1-0 match in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Saul: South Korea helping Mexico.

Bryce: Edinson Cavani's goal vs. Portugal.

Brant: Mexico stunning Germany in the World Cup.
Mariel: France winning the World Cup. 
Matt: England winning on penalties versus Colombia at the World Cup.
Travis: Mexico fans singing Chucky Lozano’s name in Russia to the tune of Seven Nation Army.

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