With one game remaining in the regular season, Sporting Kansas City announced its annual team awards Friday during a fan event at Sporting Park.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Not surprisingly, midfielder Graham Zusi was selected as the team’s MVP. It is the second consecutive season Zusi has won the award after sharing MVP honors in 2012 with goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
Zusi, 27, has five goals and 10 assists across all competitions, including eight in MLS play. He’s also emerged as a key contributor on the U.S. men’s national team, notching three goals and two assists in 18 appearances.
Two years ago, Zusi was the MLS Breakout Player of the Year and he emerged as an MLS MVP finalist in 2012, earning an ESPY nomination as the Best MLS Player in July.
Zusi’s five game-winning assists are tied for the most in MLS this season. He also was selected as Sporting KC’s offensive player of the year.
Meanwhile, defender Matt Besler, an Overland Park native, was chosen as the club’s defender of the year for the third consecutive season.
Besler, who also has become a regular alongside Zusi with the U.S. men, is the anchor of a defense that has allowed the fewest goals in MLS for the second straight season (29).
Besler is a two-time MLS All-Star and the reigning MLS Defender of the Year and Breakout Player of the Year. He and Zusi were both chosen for the MLS Best XI last season.
Forward Claudio Bieler, the club’s first-year Designated Player from Argentina, was awarded the Golden Boot as the top goal scorer.
Bieler has a team-best 10 goals. He leads all MLS newcomers and also has four assists this season.
Fellow newcomer Benny Feilhaber won Sporting KC’s goal of the year honor for his curling 30-yard strike Aug. 31 in a 2-1 win against the Colorado Rapids.
Meanwhile, defender Aurelien Collin was awarded the club’s humanitarian of the year award for his service in various capacities in the community, while Ike Opara was chosen as Sporting KC’s newcomer of the year.
Collin, a two-time MLS All-Star, frequents children’s hospitals to visit with kids who are battling life-threatening illnesses.
Opara, who was in a December trade with San Jose, has made 21 appearances across all competitions and owns a career-high three goals in addition to the game-winner in Sporting KC’s CONCACAF Champions League victory at Real Esteli FC in Nicaragua.
David Leichty was the Bob Gansler Award as Sporting KC’s top youth club player, while Kansas Rush was the Sporting Club Network Club of the Year and Sporting StL Rangers was chosen as the Academy Affiliate Club of the Year.
Sporting KC, 16-10-7, closes out the regular season at the Philadelphia Union. The game kicks off at 3 p.m. Saturday and manager Peter Vermes’ squad already is guaranteed one of the top two seeds in the MLS Eastern Conference playoffs.
With a win and a New York Red Bulls loss Sunday versus Chicago, Sporting KC would clinch the second Supporters’ Shield in club history and a third straight Eastern Conference regular-season championship.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.