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Op-Ed \ John Haydon

Before turning to the year ahead, a look back at 2000.

(Tuesday, January 2, 2001) -- Today was a great day. After a couple weeks of holiday cheer, it was time for the soccer community to look ahead and focus on the challenges of the coming year.

But first, itís time to offer the best and worst of 2000.

Best move: A big thank you to Major League Soccer for finally coming to its senses by scrapping the shootout and returning the official clock to the referee. It makes watching MLS games a whole lot more enjoyable.

MLS "Player of the Year": Mamadou Diallo. With his 26 goals, the giant Senegalese striker brought some needed flair and spice to the league. Diallo fell one goal short of Roy Lassiter's single season record.

MLS "Goalkeeper of the Year": Tony Meola. He makes every save, however simple, look good. Who can argue with his record 16 shutouts?

MLS "Coach of the Year: Bob Gansler who was bad-mouthed by everyone I spoke to when his name was put forward as a possible replacement for Bruce Arena as coach of D.C. United. Only Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski praised him and said he would do well in MLS. Cirovski was right. Gansler led the Kansas City Wizards to the MLS title. Honorable mention to Clive Charles for taking the U.S. Olympic men to the semifinals.

Biggest MLS story: The collapse of D.C. United from 1999 champion to 8-16-6 in 2000.

Bad call I: Jamaican referee Peter Prendergast for awarding Costa Rica a dubious penalty kick against the United States with the game tied 1-1. Costa Rica scored on the kick, handing the Americans a controversial and crushing defeat.

Bad call II: The normally cool-headed Paul Tamberino failed to send off Kansas City goalie Tony Meola for kicking the feet from under Chicago Fire forward Ante Razov in the MLS Cup.

World "Player of the Year": David Beckham. O.K., go ahead and laugh, but the Manchester United midfielder is still the best passer of the ball in the game. Wait until he matures! Honorable mention. Luis Figo (Portugal), Zinedine Zidane (France), and Romario (71 goals in 2000) and Rivaldo of Brazil.

Best International "Team of the Year": France. Winning Euro 2000 proved the 1998 World Cup was no fluke.

Worst penalty kickers: Dutch players missed five penalty kicks -- two during the game and three in the shootout -- against Italy in the semifinal loss of the Euro 2000. Holland's penalty specialist Frank de Boer missed two.

Best women's team: University of North Carolina. The Tar Heels had their worst regular seasons in two decades, losing three games, but that didn't stop them from dispatching a feisty UCLA 2-1 in the final game to win their 17th national championship in 20 years.

Best U.S. national team player: Cobi Jones. In 2000, he established a U.S. team record for career assists with 21; a team record for appearances with 135; an individual season record for assists with nine; an individual season record for points with 21, and on top of that scored six goals.

Hall of Shame I: Former Brazilian coach Wanderley Luxemburgo is being investigated for naming players to his squad in return for payments from their agents. If the accusations are true, it would be a major embarrassment for a nation where soccer is a national passion.

Hall of Shame II: Former U.S. Soccer president Alan Rothenberg's audacious report stating that England's World Cup bid and soccer facilities ranked lower than those of Germany and South Africa. Don't come to my house for tea, Alan. The Brits only spent $2 billion in fixing up stadiums in the last few years.

Biggest flop: Germany's total collapse at the Euro 2000, coming bottom in its opening-round group.

Dishonorable mention: England.

Biggest bore: Rampaging English fans at Euro 2000.

Biggest surprise: Portugal's wonderful attacking soccer at Euro 2000.

Best national team: France. With an almost unchanged team from its 1998 World Cup victory, defeated a stubborn Italy to win the Euro 2000.

Best U.S. female player: Tiffeny Milbrett. She may be the smallest on the team, but 17 goals in 27 games is quite a feat.

Best U.S. female goalie: Siri Mullinix. Big star on the horizon and she joins the incomparable Mia Hamm on the Washington Freedom of the Womenís United Soccer Association.

All-MLS team: Goalkeeper -Tony Meola (Wizards); Defenders - Jeff Agoos (D.C. United), Carlos Llamosa (United), Gregg Vanney (Galaxy), Peter Vermes (Wizards); Midfielders - Chris Armas (Fire), Carlos Valderrama (Tampa Bay), Peter Nowak (Fire); Forwards: Mamadou Diallo (Tampa), Jaime Moreno (United), Clint Mathis (MetroStars).

All-World team: Goalkeeper - Francesco Toldo (Fiorentina); Defenders - Rio Ferdinand (Leeds), Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid) Paolo Maldini (AC Milan); Midfielders - David Beckham (Manchester United), Zinedine Zidane (Juventus), Ariel Ortega (River Plate), Roy Keane (Manchester United); Forwards - Rivaldo (Barcelona) Figo (Real Madrid), Patrick Kluivert (Barcelona).

Aspirin Award: Goes to D.C. United general manager Kevin Payne. United not only flopped in 2000, but the team also lost its training center at the former Redskins Park. Then the owners bailed out and the club was taken over by MLS. Care for a cup of tea to go with that Aspirin, Kevin?

MLS "Rookie of the Year": Carlos Bocanegra. The former ULCA defender helped the Chicago Fire reach the MLS Cup. Honorable mention - Bobby Convey (D.C. United) and Nick Garcia (Wizards).

MLS "Goal of the Year": Finally, after many tries in his long career, defender Marcelo Balboa scored a goal on one of his spectacular bicycle kicks in a Colorado Rapids win over the Columbus Crew. It made the highlights on ESPN's SportsCenter.

Team of the decade: The U.S. women's national team. Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Julie Foudy, Michelle Akers and Carla Overbeck, etc. Where else in the world could you find a better bunch of players? Fame didn't change them a bit.

John Haydon is soccer columnist for the Washington Times and can be e-mailed at haydon@twtmail.com.

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