The Full 90

Sporting KC chooses Nielsen, Zusi as co-MVPs

Updated: 2012-10-25T00:33:31Z

By TOD PALMER

The Kansas City Star

Sporting Kansas City couldn’t choose a single Most Valuable Player, so goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen and midfielder Graham Zusi will share the honor.

Nielsen, an MLS All-Star who played every minute entering Wednesday’s season finale for Sporting KC, was chosen captain before the season. He responded with a career season, recording 15 shutouts and setting a new club record for goals-against average (0.79).

Nielsen’s 15 shutouts and 17 wins are one shy of the all-time MLS mark in both categories.

Zusi, who has emerged as a breakout star with the U.S. men’s national team one year after being dubbed the MLS breakout player of the year, led Sporting KC with an league-high 15 assists and tied for third with five goals in 32 games.

Zusi had a hand (or foot) in half of the club’s 40 goals this season, and Sporting KC is 12-1-3 when he records a goal or assist.

Hometown star Matt Besler, a 2005 Blue Valley West graduate, was selected as the club’s defensive player of the year.

Besler, who missed three games in June after an appendectomy, has been the most steady and consistent player for a defense that allowed 26 goals in 33 games, the fewest conceded in MLS this season.

He’s the highest ranked defender on the MLS Castrol Index, which measures the impact of every player in the league.

Forward Kei Kamara was selected for two postseason awards — offensive player of the year and humanitarian of the year.

Also a MLS All-Star, Kamara set career-highs for goals (11) and assists (six) and also leads the MLS with 132 shots, which are third-most in league history. He ranks second in the league with 49 shots on goal.

More importantly, during 2012, Kamara established the HeartShapedHands Foundation and worked closely with Schools for Salone, providing scholarships for children in his native Sierra Leone, where the Kei Kamara Home and School for War Orphans was built in Freetown.

Finally, Paul Dean received the Bob Gansler Award as the Sporting Juniors’ most outstanding player. Dean is a defender and captain for the under-18 team but played all 24 games for the U16s during the 2011-12 season.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.

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