Believe it or not, 2015 is almost over! Blink a few times we’ll be Christmas shopping. 2015 was an unforgettable year in many ways, especially if you’re a sports fan. Check out this review for how NorCal’s basketball, football, baseball, hockey, and soccer teams did in 2015.
Non-Warriors fans are quick to point out the injuries the Cleveland Cavaliers had to deal with, but injuries are part of the game. The Warriors dealt with them in previous seasons but this time they came out on top. Most eyes were on the regular season MVP Steph Curry who had a thrilling season but essentially everyone in the Warriors starting 5 and bench stepped up and contributed to a great season. Marc Jackson helped build this team, and in came Steve Kerr, the man coached by legends Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich, to bring this team up the next level to get that championship ring.
Between the FBI's role in the FIFA investigations and the United States Women's National Team winning a record 3rd Women's World Cup, I believe we deserve to call the sport soccer without the British correcting us. Despite losing to Sweden in the group stage and to Japan in the final of the 2011 edition, USA would win the gold in the Olympus as well as this year's invitational Algarve Cup as one of the favorites to win this year in the beautiful, friendly, and cold country of Canada. USA did not have an easy road, but they managed to win the group of death. While they were expected to beat Colombia and China afterwards, then came Germany in the semifinals and Japan in the final. USA overcame both these talented teams (the latter surprisingly by a 5-2 margin) to lift the trophy. It was especially great considering long time USWNT legend Abby Wambach retired this year, allowing her to go out as a champion
Rivercats Benefit From Change in Affiliation
For a minor league team, pairing up with the right major league team can make a difference. They didn't necessarily pull a Santa Cruz Warriors and win a league title like their major league affiliate, but shifting to affiliation with SF Giants has helped get more people interested in the local team. They finished 2nd in their division
A’s Tricks of the Trade
While Billy Beane shuffles the deck more than avid Yugioh and Magic the Gathering players, the 2015 A's made a similar trade the Sharks did in the 2013-2014 season. Instead of a horrific implosion in the postseason, they ended up not finishing anywhere near making it that far. Almost every team they played against, even the Mariners, looked like playoff caliber teams against the A's. There are some diamonds in this rough but if this group doesn't improve soon the next few seasons could be rough. Perhaps it's a chemistry issue as the A's become the Ellis Island of the MLB with all the players coming and going with little rhyme or reason.
49ers Playoff Failure and Exodus
After being a force in the NFC West and the NFL overall for several seasons, this one was a setback in many ways. After failing to reach the playoffs, they released Ray McDonald, who was charged with domestic violence before the season began. The decision to do that right at that time spark controversy. After that, several players and head coach Jim Harbaugh left the team. With many more questions than answers, a new coach that doesn't seem to be at Harbaugh's level, and an increasingly difficult division, it could go from bad to worse.
Sharks Sinking More than Swimming
Sharks miss the playoffs for the first time since 2003. This means things are going even bad to worse for the team that was knocked out of the Stanley Cup playoffs last year despite going 3-0 up and needing just one more win to advance. Instead, they were booted by rivals LA Kings. This is one Bay Area franchise that leaves their fans boiling in frustration, and hoping for better next year
USMNT Falls Down the CONCACAF Food Chain
2014 gave US soccer fans a fair bit to cheer about. Yes they didn't necessarily look like an intimidating team or one with any real chance of winning the World Cup, but they conquered their Ghanaian demons, maneuvered around talented Portuguese and German teams, and took the up and coming Belgians to extra time before bowing out. This year the mission was to qualify for the Confederations Cup in 2017. To do that, they had to win this year's Gold Cup. It seemed like an even stronger Mexican team from their 2014 World Cup squad would be their only true road block, but instead it would be Jamaica to knock them out. In the semifinals, no less. That ended the USA's run of appearing in every Gold Cup final since 2003. Panama added insult to injury in the 3rd place match as USA finished in 4th. They still had one more lifeline in a date with destiny against Mexico in the Rose Bowl on October 10.
Despite a thrilling and close encounter between the biggest soccer rivals outside the soccer Olympus's of Europe and South America, the result echoed the trajectories of the two teams. Mexico looks like they can handle even the toughest teams, while the USA appears to be a sinking ship. It could be for a number of reasons such as tactics, player selection, or simply they're not good enough to beat teams like Mexico or Brazil. But this team must find some positive attitude moving forward as their World Cup qualifying campaign begins in November. With a maximum of 4 spots available for this region and the likes of Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica having the talent to punish any team that underestimates them, it will not be easy.
The Mixed Bag:
The Raiders and Earthquakes improve, thanks to some smart transfer decisions and new coaches Jack Del Rio and Dominic Kinnear Respectively. The Raiders still have to improve in certain positions and in keeping leads, but they're giving even top team like the Denver Broncos problems (they currently stand 3-3 following a 37-29 win over the San Diego Chargers). Personally I enjoy seeing graduates from my high school (Chris Wondolowski, De La Salle) and UC Davis's Quincy Amarikwa play for the Earthquakes, who were very close to making the playoffs but couldn’t get the result they needed in a 2-1 loss to FC Dallas (Quincy Amarikwa scored, Matias Perez Garcia received a Red Card). Sac Republic made the playoffs but lost to LA Galaxy II.
The Sam Francisco Giants narrowly missed out on the playoffs but maintain a solid collection of players that could do some serious damage next season. If they stay healthy and stay the course, they should be likely to continue their "even year" mojo. Last but not least, the Sacramento Kings had another playoff-less season but manage not only to keep their stars but also sign veteran Rajon Rondo. The current squad they have right now isn't quite up there with the Warriors and Spurs but they will certainly be in the mix to make the playoffs next season. Write them off at your own risk.
The Stars Align
Here are some of the players for each team that stood out this year.
Golden State Warriors:
Sacramento River Cats
San Francisco 49ers:
San Francisco Giants:
San Jose Earthquakes:
San Jose Sharks:
USA men’s soccer:
USA women’s soccer:
No matter what NorCal team you support or how things have been going, remember to keep on cheering on your teams!