From the archives: December 2010

By most measures, 2010 was a successful year for U.S. soccer and the men's national team.

The fighting spirit of the World Cup squad, epitomized by Landon Donovan's stoppage winner against Algeria, made new futbol fans from coast to coast. The memorable tally also won the group for the Americans -- ahead of England -- for the first time since 1930. Donovan's inconsistency had long been the lone argument against his now-irrefutable status as the best-ever American-born field player, but he exorcised those demons -- first by starring for Everton during a three-month loan at the beginning of the year, then by netting three goals at the World Cup. (Or, put another way, as many as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Fernando Torres, Xavi and Wayne Rooney combined.)

Stuart Holden and Clint Dempsey emerged as bona fide English Premier League stars, and Dempsey became the first American to play in a European final. An MLS castoff, Herculez Gomez, won a share of the Mexican scoring title along with former Guadalajara and current Manchester United forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.

U.S. coach Bob Bradley, to the chagrin of his detractors, was linked to Premier League openings with Fulham and Aston Villa (face it: He couldn't have done any worse at Villa than Gerard Houllier), and received effusive praise from none other than Sir Alex Ferguson following the Americans' showing in South Africa.

And in the year's final match, 17-year-old, Colombian-born New York Red Bulls striker Juan Agudelo became the youngest goal scorer in the national team's 94-year history.

Still, 2010 will be remembered as a tease, a year of missed opportunities, for what might have been, for all the things that didn't happen.