MLSsoccer.com polled 20 of our editors, writers, videographers and statistics specialists to bring you the Best of 2012, running Dec. 17 through Jan. 2. Each day we'll hand out an award in a variety of categories culled from the storylines of MLS and US international players, including Biggest Controversy, Breakout Player of the Year and, via fan vote revealed on Dec. 31, the Moment of the Year.
Contributor and Monday Postgame writer John Bolster gets the honor (and the enjoyment) of breaking down the Gaffe of the Year, given this year to the New York Red Bulls' self-destruction in the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal series against D.C. United.
So who messed up the best this year?
Well, as is the case with many awards, it was a team effort: In the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Nov. 8, the New York Red Bulls produced a collective meltdown against D.C. United to get bounced out of the playoffs and cap off one of the strangest postseason series in MLS history.
The infamous sequence began during Kenny Cooper’s 71st-minute penalty attempt, which he drove past United’s backup keeper, Joe Willis, to give the Red Bulls a 1-0 lead in the tense, do-or-die match.
Make that an apparent 1-0 lead: Referee Mark Geiger called for a retake because a stampede of Red Bulls — led by veteran Thierry Henry, who passed right in front of Geiger — had charged into the box before Cooper’s shot. It was a clear case of encroachment and it pulled the goal off the scoreboard.
On the retake, Cooper stutter-stepped to the ball, hesitated, and punched a lukewarm shot to Willis’s left. Willis dropped down and made the save, keeping the teams level at 0-0.
Two minutes later, Rafa Márquez drew his second yellow and was sent off — meaning New York had given back a goal advantage and a man advantage in a disastrous five-minute sequence.
Naturally, D.C. went on to win the game 1-0 on Nick DeLeon’s 88th-minute goal. New York’s season was over, Cooper was inconsolable in the locker room and, well, our panel’s work was done.
2. Bill Hamid scores on himself (D.C. United vs. New York, Nov. 3)
In Act 1 of New York and D.C.’s theater-of-the-absurd playoff production, the teams combined for two own goals in a 1-1 draw. The second one was a howler from D.C. keeper Hamid, who guided a headed cross backward into his own net.
3. Tony Beltran gifts one to Landon Donovan (Real Salt Lake vs. LA, June 20)
As a lead pass to a forward, this ball by Tony Beltran would’ve been a perfectly weighted gem. As a backpass to his own 'keeper, it left a lot to be desired.