U.S. Soccer has announced its Male, Female, Young Male and Young Female Athletes of the Year for 2009, with the Female honoree being Saint Louis Athletica and U.S. Women's National Team's No. 1 goalkeeper Hope Solo.
Solo is the first goalkeeper to be named the U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year.
The U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year award is the highest honor granted to a soccer player in the United States. The voting consisted of ballots from the media, fans, U.S. Soccer representatives and Board of Directors.
Solo kicked off the year by winning MVP honors at the Algarve Cup in Portugal. After a rocky start in the inaugural season of the Women's Professional Soccer league (WPS), she proved to not only be a top-notch goalkeeper, but a commanding defensive leader as she helped lead Athletica from the bottom of the standings to finish second place and secure a playoff spot.
Aside from being named the Coast Guard Goalkeeper of the Year and winning the most fan votes for the All-Star Game, Solo made WPS history by becoming the first goalkeeper in the league to assist in a goal (watch the video here and proceed to the 40th second mark).
Her spectacular save at the playoff game against Sky Blue FC made it to No. 1 in the league's top five saves, shown at the WPS All-Star Game pre-show (below is a highlight reel of the aforementioned match, with Solo's save at the beginning of the clip).
Solo was instrumental in the U.S. Women's National Team's undefeated record in 2009, allowing only one goal the whole year. The friendly against Germany, the No. 2-ranked team in the world, had the Germans gain possession of the ball most of the match but could not score, thanks to the efforts of Solo and her back four.
Other winners of the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year award are LA Galaxy's Landon Donovan (Male), Pateadores' Luis Gil (Young Male), and University of North Carolina's Tobin Heath (Young Female), who is widely expected to be one of the top picks in next month's WPS college draft.