U.S. Soccer Announces Men's, Women's Player Of The Year Candidates

Five USMNT and five USWNT players are up for the 2018 award.

Following the United States' 1-0 loss to Italy on Tuesday, U.S. Soccer released its shortlist of men’s and women’s players in the running for the federation’s annual U.S. Soccer Player Of The Year award.

It was (mostly) an unimpressive year for the USMNT as it wrapped up 2018 with a 3-3-5 record. It’s hard to be harsh on interim head coach David Sarachan and his team as the men are in a rebuilding and tinkering phase following their failure to qualify for this year's World Cup. This has meant a ton of young, new players getting caps (19 to be exact) and gaining confidence. This approach was on display in the loss to Italy, a game which featured a U.S. side with an average age of 22.2 and the side’s youngest-ever captain in 20-year-old Christian Pulisic

Considering this, it comes as no surprise then that the five players up for the award — Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Will Trapp, Matt Miazga and Zack Steffen — are all first-time nominees. Last year’s winner, Christian Pulisic, gets no love from the committee this time around.

Nineteen-year-old Adams, the youngest of the nominees, earned his first cap last November in a friendly against Portugal and has gone on to make nine appearances for the Star and Stripes since that debut. In 2018, the New York Red Bulls midfielder put together a string of solid performances and also notched his first international goal in the U.S.’s 1-0 win over fierce rival Mexico. 

McKennie too has under 10 caps for the senior side but has impressed with the minutes he’s been given. The Schalke product marked his debut against Portugal last year with a goal and seems to be continuing the tradition of promising U.S. youngsters being developed in Bundesliga.

Trapp, who earned his first cap in 2015, was called back into the USMNT in January by Sarachan. In that first game back against Bosnia-Herzegovina — just his third cap and first-ever start for the U.S. — Trapp was given the captain’s armband. He would keep the captaincy in a handful of games after, including the 1-1 draw against eventual world champion France.

Trapp is joined on the list by his Columbus Crew teammate Zack Steffen. The 23-year-old keeper made six appearances for the U.S. this year, which included his first career clean sheet in a 1-0 victory against Paraguay and Man of the Match honors in the hard-fought draw against Les Bleus, a game in which he made seven saves. 

Rounding out the list of nominees is defender Matt Miazga. There was a point back in 2015 where Miazga was considering pledging his allegiance to Poland, saying he was undecided and waiting to see who called him into the senior side. Well, he decided and fast forward three years, Miazga has arguably been the most sound presence in the USMNT backline this year. 

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While the men had a year to forget, the women dazzled, outscoring their opponents 65-10 in 20 games on their way to an undefeated 2018. The USWNT was crowned champions in the SheBelieves Cup, the Tournament of Nations and the Concacaf Women’s Championship, adding more hardware to its already overflowing trophy cabinet. Ranked No. 1 in the world, they head into a World Cup year as favorites to defend their title. 

Red-hot Alex Morgan, who last won the award in 2012, headlines 2018’s list of nominees. The 29-year-old, who has scored 18 goals in 19 caps, is coming off one of her most prolific years ever. Morgan led the team in minutes with 1,500 and earned the Golden Ball at the Tournament of Nations and Concacaf Women’s Championship.  

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Fellow veteran Megan Rapinoe also had a stellar year as a lethal playmaker on the wing, leading the U.S. in assists (12) and adding seven goals in 16 appearances. Rapinoe was also nominated for the FIFA Best Player of the Year and Women’s Ballon D’or awards. 

The 2017 winner, Julie Ertz, has been given the nod for the honor again. Ertz has made the transition from center back to defensive midfielder in impressive fashion, proving to be a ball-winning, skillful force in the center of the park for the U.S. women. A regular starter, Ertz’s 2018 included the Concacaf Championship Golden Ball, given to the tournament's best player. 

Tobin Heath, who won the award in 2016, was yet again one of the U.S.’s most potent attacking players, notching seven goals and eight assists this year. Her flashy feet and artistic playmaking have made her both a fan favorite and a deadly threat. What’s more impressive has been Heath’s return to form after a back injury that sidelined her for the majority of the 2017 NWSL season. 

Lindsey Horan, the youngest of the nominees at 24, has enjoyed a breakthrough campaign for both club and country in 2018. Similar to Ertz, Horan has been a bit of a chameleon for the U.S. in the past few months, dropping from the forward line back into an attacking mid position. The NWSL MVP has more than made a home for herself in this role, pulling the strings and getting in on the goal scoring fun. The U.S. would have been handed its first (and what would have been its only) loss of 2018 had it not been for a header goal from the “Great Horan” in the 90th minute against Australia. 

Both the male and female U.S. Soccer Athlete Of The Year winners will be announced in the first week of December.

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