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Dempsey wins award for top American export

Fulham ace raises bar in 2010 and nets magical goal vs. Juventus

The editorial staff at MLSsoccer.com is looking back over the year with our "Best of 2010" awards, running Dec. 13 through Jan. 2. Each day we'll hand out an award from a variety of categories culled from the storylines of Major League Soccer and the North American soccer scene.

Former New England Revolution and current Fulham star Clint Dempsey ran away with the Export of the Year, recognizing the American who made the biggest waves outside the United States. 

Around the time America's all-time greatest export, BrianMcBride, was mulling retirement, countryman Clint Dempsey was ensuring his namewould remain as legendary at Craven Cottage as McBride's.

Former Fulham captain McBride may have a stadium barnamed after him, but Dempsey etched his name deep into the memories of Fulhamfans when he helped lead the Cottagers to the Europa League final earlier thisyear.

It was Dempsey's audacious chipped goal against Italiangiants Juventus that competed an unlikely comeback and thrust Fulham into thequarterfinals of the competition. British newspaper TheGuardian said the effort "might become the most famous goal inFulham history." Ergo, Dempsey's legend was secured.

Watch the editors debate the Export of the Year award:

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But that goal was simply the highlight of yet anothermemorable year for the forward — even though, early on, 2010 looked to be alost cause.

Days after being named among the top 11 EPL players by Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport, Dempsey damaged his ACL on Jan. 17. Theinjury threatened to derail his season and even put his World Cup aspirationsinto doubt.

However, he was back on the pitch for the final minute ofthe first leg of Fulham's round-of-16 match against Juventus on March 11, andthe rest, as they say, is history.

Despite the injury, Dempsey finished the 2009-2010 seasonwith seven goals in all competitions, and the Texan-born 28-year-old hastallied five in this campaign. In fact, his improved play this year has led tospeculation about his future, linking him with a winter move to everyone fromLiverpool to Bayer Leverkusen.

But it's not necessarily the goals that have earnedDempsey MLSsoccer.com's Export of the Year nod — it's his durability, histenacity, his toughness and his ability to bring the drama when needed.

Simply put, Dempsey has demonstrated all those traitsAmerican sports fans hold dear and are more than happy to export.

Second Place: Stuart Holden

Just like Dempsey, Holden's entire year — including hisWorld Cup dreams — looked to be shelved after Holland's Nigel de Jong broke theAmerican's leg in an international friendly on March 3.

Just days before, Holden had impressed in his full leaguedebut and his EPL future appeared to be promising. However, following the injury, manyassumed he would have to move on from Bolton after his short-term contract expired in the summer.

Instead, Wanderers offered the former Dynamo midfielder a new contract only days after the injury and he has done plenty to repay that faith by becoming one ofEPL's most valuable players.

Third Place: Hérculez Gómez

Gómez seemingly appeared out of nowhere in 2010 to securea place on Bob Bradley's World Cup team. The former Kansas City striker tallied10 goals for Mexican side Puebla in the last Clausura to become the firstAmerican to win or tie for a scoring title in a foreign league.

Perhaps more impressive, though, is that thequintessential role player achieved this feat despite starting the majority ofthe season on the bench.

His early year heroics also earned him a higher profile move to perennial contenders Pachuca and an appearance in the FIFA Club World Cup in December.

Honorable Mentions: Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, Steve Cherundolo,Michael Bradley, Carlos Bocanegra, Jose Francisco Torres.