Top 10 moments of the year in D.C. sports

10. D.C. United returns to the playoffs After suffering through not only the worst year in team history, but one of the worst in MLS history, D.C. United completed a remarkable turnaround in 2014. Their 17-7-9 record topped the Eastern Conference, and United became the lone team from MLS to advance past the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League, winning all four games to earn the top seed for the quarterfinals, which begin in February. They also saw Bobby Boswell and homegrown goalkeeper Bill Hamid named to the MLS Best XI, and player-turned-coach Ben Olsen take home Coach of the Year honors. (Getty Images/Michael Steele)
9. Mid-Atlantic schools dominate College Cup While Maryland entered the 2014 NCAA soccer championship as the highest seeded local team, UMBC proved to be the Cinderella story, topping the fourth-ranked Terps, then #13 Louisville and #12 Creighton to reach the Final Four. On the other side of the bracket, Georgetown made the round of eight before bowing out to Virginia. The Cavaliers then beat the Retrievers in the national semifinal game before upsetting UCLA in penalty kicks to win the national title. (Getty Images/Michael Steele)
8. Nationals walk off in three straight, five times in six games The Nats enjoyed one of the most absurd stretches of baseball history tilting in their favor for the better part of a week in mid-August. Already riding a four-game winning streak, Washington won three straight games in walk-off fashion, finally won another game in less dramatic style, then walked off again the next two games. They managed to win those five games in five different ways, keyed by five different players, as well. 1. Wilson Ramos’ ground-rule double plates Bryce Harper
2. Scott Hairston’s sacrifice fly brings home Jayson Werth in the 11th
3. Adam LaRoche’s 11th-inning home run, somehow the first of his career, sends everyone home happy
4. Anthony Rendon’s single scores Harper
5. Jordan Pacheco’s throw on a Rendon grounder skips into the camera well, allowing Denard Span to score the winning run from second (Getty Images/Michael Steele)
7. Maryland football wins at the Big House and Happy Valley The supposed downside of the Terrapins’ departure for the prestige and money of the Big 10 was the lumps the football team would no doubt take when exposed to tougher competition in conference play. But Maryland acquitted itself pretty well in its first year, finishing behind only top-10 ranked Ohio State and Michigan State in their division. They did so by opening eyes with a 5-1 road record, including a pair of signature program wins, at Penn State on November 1 and three weeks later in Ann Arbor. Never mind that both those programs were down a bit this year – both wins are feathers in Randy Edsall’s cap. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
6. George Washington makes the NCAA tournament George Washington had watched a number of their fellow A-10 competitors make noise in the big dance earlier in the decade, from George Mason to VCU. But after a three-year run from 2005-07 that saw them make the field each season, the Colonials had been left out of the dance for six straight campaigns. That changed in 2014, as Mike Lonergan led GW to a 24-win season that included victories over Miami, Maryland and Creighton, landing them a nine seed in the tournament. The Colonials have already proven this season that they’re not going anywhere, knocking off 11th-ranked Wichita State in Hawaii and enter conference play at 10-3. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
5. DeSean Jackson signs with Redskins Don’t blame the failures of the team on their new wide receiver. Despite only being targeted 94 times (22 fewer than any other top-20 receiver), Jackson finished the season with 1,169 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He had 16 catches for more than 20 yards, but 13 of those went for over 40 yards, by far the most in the league (Jordy Nelson was second with 8). Of any receiver to catch at least 50 balls, Jackson’s 20.9 yards per catch was best by more than 4 yards per catch. He remains one of the great deep threat receivers in the game today. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
4. Wizards return to the playoffs At long last, everything started to come together for the Wizards in 2013-14, as they won 15 games more than the year prior to lock up the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Then they took down the Chicago Bulls in just 5 games in the first round, their first playoff series win since 2004-05. While they bowed out in the conference semis to the Indiana Pacers, the team kept its core together and extended Marcin Gortat in the offseason while adding veteran Paul Pierce. Now, as John Wall enters the prime of his career, Washington appears poised to claim one of the top seeds in the conference and make a deep postseason run for the first time since the late 70s. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
3. D.C. United gets a new stadium Depending on your perspective, the approval of D.C. United’s new stadium deal is the culmination of anywhere from a few, to up to 20 years of effort on the parts of the team and its fan base to create a world class home for a professional soccer team in the nation’s capital. With a proposal that stretched over three different mayoral terms, the elusive deal was finally inked in December on the proposed project at Buzzard Point, set to open in 2017. (
2. Winter Classic comes to D.C. The idea had been floated about for years, but D.C. finally was chosen to host the marquee event of the NHL season. The Capitals will get a good matchup, too, with the talented Chicago Blackhawks. The only tarnish on this gem was that it took so long to finally lock down a venue, but any potential planning crisis seems to have been averted. And it appears the notoriously fickle D.C. weather will actually cooperate as well, bringing cold and clear skies for gameday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
1. Steven Souza saves Jordan Zimmerman’s no-hitter Every no-hitter takes a bit of luck, and usually at least one great defensive play to make it possible. Some are more memorable than others, like Dwayne Wise grappling back a home run from oblivion and hanging on for dear life with his bare hand, or Gregor Blanco’s warning track sellout to preserve Matt Cain’s perfection. You could argue the merits of each individual play, but when it comes to the sheer drama, to the 27th and final out, nothing beats what Steven Souza did to save Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter on the final day of the regular season. Off the bat, that’s a double. In fact, the camera starts on the wrong outfielder, Michael Taylor in center. It isn’t until Souza comes chugging into the left side of the frame that there’s even a thought the ball might get tracked down before it hits the turf. Zimmermann thinks it’s over. Scratch that — he knows it. His shoulders slump and he starts walking off the mound in disgust. And even he, like the rest of us, isn’t sure it has actually happened until Souza rolls over, ball in leather, extended at arm’s length for the umpire and 40,000 delirious fans to see. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON – There were no titles in the District sports world in 2014, but three of the big five professional teams made the postseason and there were individual highlights all around.

The WTOP sports staff picked 10 moments that stood out from the rest this year. Think we missed something, or that a different moment deserved to be number one? Tell us in the comments, and have a safe and happy New Year.

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