Photo by Bill Barrett/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
Scoring was not the easiest of things for the U.S. men's national team in 2011. It found the back of the net just 16 times in 17 games for its lowest goal-scoring total in a decade.
That does not mean there weren't any nice goals, though.
In a year that included a coaching change midway through, the United States managed to score a handful of nice goals. From finishes that came at the end of well-worked passing sequences, to impressive individual efforts, there were several goals that bear watching again before the year ends.
So before we turn the page on the year that was, here are SBI's Top Five USMNT Goals of 2011:
5. Clint Dempsey vs. Jamaica, June 19
Holding a slim lead over 10-man Jamaica in the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup, the United States sealed its passage to the semifinals when Dempsey finished off a nice passing sequence that involved Juan Agudelo and Landon Donovan. Hitting back on a counter, Donovan hit a pair of one-timed passes to Agudelo, who fought off a challenge before finding Dempsey with a low cross in front of goal. Dempsey demonstrated his composure in front of goal by cooly avoiding Donovan Ricketts and giving the Americans the insurance goal in the 2-0 affair.
4. Dempsey vs. Panama, June 22
Three days after scoring against Jamaica, Dempsey struck again. This time it was a game-winner and this time it was in the Gold Cup semifinals against Panama, the team which had handed the United States its first ever defeat in the group stage of the tournament days earlier. Dempsey scored the game's lone goal from close range following a counterattack that saw Freddy Adu play a beautiful ball to Donovan, who then hit a driven cross to the far post that Dempsey needed to only direct on frame for his third goal of the tournament.
3. Edson Buddle vs. Slovenia, Nov. 15
Scoring just the third goal in Jurgen Klinsmann's reign as head coach of the United States, Buddle began arguably the Americans' finest offensive outing under the former German striker when he blasted one in from range against Slovenia in a foggy friendly in November. Buddle netted the opener in the 3-2 win for the Americans when he controlled the ball with his thigh and volleyed it off the near post following a turnover deep in Slovenia's half that was forced by Dempsey.
2. Donovan vs. Mexico, June 25
He may not have had his greatest year in a U.S. jersey, but Donovan managed to score one of the better goals of 2011 for the United States in the thrilling Gold Cup final encounter against Mexico. Donovan helped initiate the play, which gave the U.S. team a 2-0 lead, but it was Dempsey and Adu who allowed it to develop further, as their quick combination took the attention off a streaking Donovan, who finished with authority before the Americans lost the game, 4-2. Perhaps just as nice as the goal was Donovan's celebration, which included a tainted chicken dance and the stanky leg (to commemorate Charlie Davies on his birthday).
1. Jozy Altidore vs. Guadeloupe, June 14
Scoring his second goal in the group stage of the Gold Cup, Jozy Altidore unleashed a venomous shot from distance that soared into the top corner of the net. The goal, which was the winner in the United States' 1-0 win over Guadeloupe, came in just the 9th minute of the game played at Livestrong Sporting Park when Altidore received a pass and cannoned a shot on frame from about 25 yards out.
What do you think of SBI's Top 5 USMNT Goals of 2011? Do you agree? Think another goal should have made the list?
Share your thoughts below.