Hey footy fans and HAPPY NEW YEAR’S EVE! Wow, 2012 has been pretty crazy, hasn’t it? I honestly can’t believe it’s over! We’ve had a lot of changes around here and there’s been a lot that’s happened in Major League Soccer and all around the world. So, to close out the year, the ladies of Aerys Soccer will take you back and share with you our favorite stories, games, events and more from this past year!
Toni Stone: Arsenal and DC United writer
Theirry Henry makes Arsenal history January 2012 with first appearance as a Gunner since 2007
When my editor Trista Lutgring asked me to write about my favorite soccer memory of 2012, one immediately popped into my head. It was in early January, just after the transfer window had closed. Not surprisingly, my favorite team Arsenal had not made a single trade despite a poor start to their season. But there was a silver lining to the new year. The club borrowed a player on loan from the New York Redbulls. That player was none other than the Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry. It was Henry’s first appearance as a player at Emirates Stadium and a who’s who guest list filled the stands to witness the historic event. Even David Beckham, an obvious Manchester United former player and fan, was in attendance with his three boys in tow (one of which is an Arsenal fan).
Prior to writing this, I honestly didn’t remember that Arsneal played Leeds that night, or that it was an FA Cup match. I do remember however, that Henry didn’t start, but when he stood up to warm up, it felt like the entire stadium took in a giant breath and held it. All eyes widened and even the cameramen found it difficult to pull the camera away from the sidelines and follow match play. As the superstar striker came on to a standing ovation, the anticipation was so high, I look back now and realize that what was expected from him was too much pressure to put on any human. Fortunately for all of us, Henry is no ordinary human. He touched the ball once maybe twice in the nearly eight minutes he was on the pitch, with fans standing and singing his praises the entire time. Then Alex Song made a beautiful pass, which Thierry touched once to settle and once more to fire into the upper right corner of the net.
The adrenaline that must have been pumping through that man was contagious. I can recall his reaction to that goal as if I were watching it in front of me, but I just watched a few thousand Youtube videos to hear the crowd celebrating with him, and well, just because. In his revelry, he ran around the edge of the stadium with his arms outstretched. He made a quick pit stop to hug his mentor, Arsene Wenger, then continued the festivities along with everyone else wearing a red Arsenal jersey. That moment was an incredible rush and an inspiring shot in the arm the team needed at that point in the season. Henry’s first appearance as an Arsenal player in many years concluded with a game-winning goal (1-0) and an historic night for all. Thank you Thierry Henry (and Trista for prompting me to rememeber), for a tremendous 2012 soccer memory.
Tamara Rinehart: La Liga and Seattle Sounders writer
It’s been a crazy year in the football world and naming just one specific moment that stood out for me was tremendously difficult. First off, Real Madrid becoming La Liga champions and Spain winning Euro 2012 was pretty spectacular and a feat for future countries to compete with. But it was a match in Seattle on June 7th that caught me eye (hell, it even made me tear up a bit!)
The return of Steve Zakuani. Not to mention, the return of Zakuani at home, against the same club and man who brought Steve down on April 23, 2011 with a broken leg – the Colorado Rapids. Oh and the Sounders beat the Rapids 2-1, so not too shabby. Tears and goosebumps took a hold of me as I watched No. 11 take the pitch late in the match with everyone in attendance clapping and cheering, including the players and coaching staff of both clubs. After such a tragedy last year, seeing No. 11 fly on the pitch and sharing an embrace with Brian Mullan, was enough to make this my #1 moment of 2012. Absolutely incredible! I can’t wait to see what happens in 2013!
Alyssa Olszewski: San Jose Earthquakes writer
There were several hugely exciting moments for the San Jose Earthquakes this past season. Ground was broken on their new stadium, the Supporters’ Shield was won, and there was no shortage of drama between the Quakes and their sworn rivals down in Southern California. However, one of my favorite moments came relatively early on in the season, when the Quakes played the Columbus Crew at Buck Shaw Stadium May 19. Columbus had gone up in the 47th minute thanks to a goal by Justin Meram. Crew keeper Andy Grunebaum made some massive saves, including a Wondo penalty kick, and it seemed San Jose was destined to end their unbeaten-at-Buck-Shaw streak earlier than hoped.
Then Gordon Time happened. This was the season of last-minute results for the Earthquakes, and Alan Gordon scored a disproportionate share of those late goals. He came on as a sub in this game in the 60th minute, but, true to form, waited until the 90th minute to score. And what a beauty it was. His first shot clanged off the crossbar but he followed the rebound, completely laying out his massive frame to beat the keeper with an acrobatic half volley.
The stadium erupted, Gordon was tackled by his teammates, and the Quakes managed to hold on for the remaining minutes of extra time to secure a draw.
Terry Munoz: English Premier League writer
The beginning of the 2011-12 EPL season started off great for my club, Manchester City. They were at the top of the table and it looked like the league was ours. Then in the middle of the season, City was no longer playing they way they had at the beginning of the year and Manchester United was at the top of the table, eight points ahead. Somehow, though, City was able to catch up and by the last match day, City and United were tied at the top of the table. The last match, against Queens Park Rangers, was a must win for City. A loss or draw would mean that United would win the league. Rooney scored the goal for United, but City had also scored. However, QPR equalized much to the disappointment of City fans (and excitement of United fans).
QPR then scored another goal and were winning 2-1. With less than 10 minutes to go, United was winning against Sunderland and City was losing against QPR. Roberto Mancini decided it was time to sub in Edin Dzeko, who then scored for City in the last remaining minutes of the match. This wasn’t enough though. City would need one more goal if they wanted to win their first league title in 40-plus years. Kun Aguero came to the rescue when he scored the winning goal in extra time. City fans everywhere (including myself) were in shock, but excited and thrilled to see City win the league. Supporters of other clubs were also happy, they had wanted anyone but United to win the league. That match was one of the most exciting matches of the season for me, as a City fan, and a very memorable moment for 2012.
Kristian Russell: LA Galaxy writer
Oh man… Picking my favorite LA Galaxy moment this season is easier said than done! So I’ve narrowed it down to two; beating San Jose in the playoffs and winning the MLS Cup again. Beating San Jose was nothing short of epic. LA went in as the underdogs and came out the team to beat on the road to the cup. It was something of a dream! Winning the MLS Cup again was the icing in the cake to the whole season. The way the boys went from last in the league, to the best gave me cold chills… And it’s still does to this day! 2012 was a great season for LA, and 2013 will be right up there with it.
Frances Sullivan: La Liga writer
There were many candidates for my best moment of 2012. From living in Brazil for the Euros to Real Madrid winning their 32nd La Liga title, from watching the USMNT defeat Mexico in the Azteca Stadium to attending my first MLS game (Dallas vs LA), 2012 was a packed year. Nevertheless, I’m going to have to say the USWNT semifinal game against Canada in the Olympics takes the cake this year. I got to watch the game with a bunch of university friends on a giant screen. The thrill of enduring Christine Sinclair scoring three times against the U.S. and watching our girl come back each time was exhilarating! I was barely breathing by the time Alex Morgan’s header crossed the line four minutes into injury time after extra time was already exhausted. I was freaking out! I totally thought the game was going to penalty kicks. Whew! What. A. Game.
Liz Johnsen: Real Salt Lake writer
Late in the season, Real Salt Lake were playing DC United, and it was defiantly not a game for fair weather fans. Someone in Utah must have infuriated Mother Nature, because the rain and wind were vicious – so bad that the ref called a weather delay not even 20 minutes into the game, after an unsettlingly large lightning strike shook the building. But I like to think that’s how all other teams view the RioT when they come play here! I happened to be taking one of my friends who had never been to a game before, and who was skeptical that soccer was entertaining in the slightest way, shape, or form. We had an hour and a half to kill before the storm passed and the game started again, so I began telling her about everything Real Salt Lake and gave her the unofficial tour of the soggy stadium.
The Supporters Section drunks were great entertainment for us as they formed a dance circle (which in this case ended up being more of a who-could-make-dance-motions-the-longest-without-falling-over-circle), and sang some not so PG rated songs. I was shocked when my friend showed some interest in the team and asked about my favorite player, Will Johnson, and some other players who she had heard me talk about in the past. By the time the game had started again, and she was standing, and singing, and having a great time. She even picked out a favorite player! I kept telling her not to worry that the score was 0-0, and that Will would come through and score. It was really crazy because he actually did! Whenever I say someone is going to score, they usually never do, so of course calling that my favorite player would score the game winner was great, but by converting a baseball fan into a soccer fan, I felt accomplished and everyone went home happy. Except for maybe DC United… They just went home wet.
Trista Lutgring: Editor, Columbus Crew and USMNT writer
Okay, so wow. When I issued this assignment, I didn’t even take a second to think about what I would deem my favorite moment of 2012. There were so many around the league, with the United States Men’s National Team and well, just all over the world! But once I got to thinking about it, the Crew fan in me would only let me choose one moment.
Aug. 15, 2012. It was a game against the LA Galaxy that held a lot more meaning than the usual match ups between the Crew and the west-coast team. A week prior to that game, our rookie midfielder Kirk Urso died for reasons unknown at the time. A promising talent from the University of North Carolina, Kirk had played six games for the Crew, starting five of them. As fans, we were excited about his presence on the team. He was hard working, had talent and, more importantly, had a great, promising future with us. I never met Kirk, I didn’t know him personally and never got to sit at Crew Stadium and watch him take the pitch. But to this day, it still gets me that the Crew Nation lost Kirk just as we were getting to know him.
And Columbus didn’t mourn alone. Major League Soccer and its teams grieved with us. It was the first time in the league’s history that a young player had passed during the season. It was quite unreal for all of us. So when the Crew took to the field Aug. 15 for the first time at home since Kirk’s passing, it was pretty emotional. The number 15 was everywhere, commemorating our fallen player. And I’ll never forget when the 15 minute mark in the match happened and everyone fell silent. The supporter’s section, every person in a seat and on the sidelines dead quite for one minute that just stretched on as banners for Kirk were held high. The silence ended with a bagpipe lead rendition of “Amazing Grace,” which made me tear up and still does now that I am remembering it.
It was a moment I’ll never forget; all of MLS banning with the Crew Nation. Kirk was one of us, Forever Massive, and he will be greatly missed.
“Don’t count your time, make your time count.”