(October 19, 2013) - Sporting Kansas City announced the team's annual awards on Saturday during Pitch Black, presented by Aristocrat Motors and Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City, at Sporting Park. Sporting Kansas City players, coaches, media members and fans voted on the following awards:
2013 Most Valuable Player, presented by Aristocrat Motors and Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City: Graham Zusi
2013 Offensive Player of the Year, presented by Providence Medical Center: Graham Zusi
2013 Defensive Player of the Year, presented by Ivy Funds: Matt Besler
2013 Goal of the Year, presented by Power Partners: Benny Feilhaber, Aug. 31st vs. Colorado Rapids at Sporting Park
2013 Newcomer of the Year, presented by UMB Bank: Ike Opara
Additionally, the club chose the following awards:
2013 Golden Boot, presented by US Bank: Claudio Bieler
2013 The Victory Project Humanitarian of the Year: Aurelien Collin
2013 Bob Gansler Award (Outstanding Academy Player), presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City: David Leichty
2013 Sporting Club Network Club of the Year, presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City: Kansas Rush Soccer Club
2013 Academy Affiliate Club of the Year, presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City: Sporting StL Rangers
Zusi, 27, has recorded five goals and 10 assists in all competition this season for Sporting Kansas City while becoming a key contributor on the U.S. Men's National Team. Zusi has 18 international appearances, including a role in 12 of the United States' last 13 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, and has tallied three goals and two assists for the U.S. MNT. After being named MLS Breakout Player of the Year in 2011, Zusi was an MLS MVP finalist and Best XI selection in 2012 and was a nominee for Best MLS Player at the 2013 ESPYS. He is currently tied for the MLS lead with five game-winning assists in 2013.
In 22 MLS matches this season, Besler has anchored a Sporting Kansas City defense that leads Major League Soccer with the fewest goals allowed. After debuting with the U.S. Men's National Team in January, the 26-year-old Overland Park, Kan. native now has 12 international appearances highlighted by starts in six FIFA World Cup qualifiers and all three knockout round games en route to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup title. Besler is a two-time MLS All-Star and earned MLS Best XI, MLS Defender of the Year and MLS Breakout Player of the Year recognition in 2012.
Feilhaber, 28, scored one of the season's most memorable goals on Aug. 31 in front of a sold out crowd at Sporting Park. His right-footed shot from 30 yards from net curled past Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin in the 33rd minute to propel Sporting KC to a 2-1 victory over the visitors. Watch the goal -- this third of the season and seventh of his MLS career -- online at SportingKC.com.
Opara, 24, excelled in central defense for Sporting Kansas City in 21 appearances in all competition this season after being acquired in a trade with the San Jose Earthquakes last December. He's matched his MLS career high with three goals and also scored the game-winning goal in a 2-0 victory at Real Esteli FC in Nicaragua.
Bieler, 29, leads all Sporting Kansas City players with 10 goals in his debut season with the club, most among all MLS newcomers in 2013. His 10 goals are also the most by a Designated Player in a single season in club history and he is only the fourth player in team history to score 10 goals in their first season with the club (Preki and Digital Takawira in 1996, Miklos Molnar in 2000). He has also added four assists in 28 MLS matches.
Collin, 27, is a two-time MLS All-Star and also stands out off the field as a model representative in the community. Collin consistently goes above and beyond to support children battling life-threatening illnesses with voluntary visits during treatment and a commitment to continuing connections outside the hospital. He's joined sports practices, taken shopping trips, attended fundraisers and become a friend to many kids in need.
Leichty received the 2013 Bob Gansler Award, annually bestowed upon the most outstanding Sporting KC Academy player of the year. The 18-year-old midfielder appeared in three MLS Reserve League matches last season and was on the senior team's 2013 pre-season roster, including an appearance against the New England Revolution in January. Leichty made 25 appearances during the 2012-13 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season and has played in all five USSDA matches this season for the unbeaten Sporting KC Academy U18's. He's ranked the #91 player nationally in the class of 2013 by TopDrawerSoccer.com and the #3 player in the Heartland Region.
The Sporting Club Network - a membership of athletes and athletic organizations created to affiliate all interested soccer and other organizations in the Midwest with Sporting Club and Sporting Kansas City - recognized two of the Network's outstanding clubs for their accomplishments in 2013: Kansas Rush Soccer Club and Sporting StL Rangers. For more information on these two clubs and the Sporting Club Network, visit SportingKC.com.
Sporting Park welcomed fans alongside Sporting Kansas City players and coaches on Saturday for a night of drinks, dining and live entertainment on the field. The team honors were formally presented to the award winners and proceeds raised will benefit The Victory Project in its mission to help kids in Kansas City who have cancer.