The final installment of our Kevin Gray Awards Spotlight features the pride of Kansas City, Matt Besler. Besler's standout performances on and off the field make him the perfect candidate for a Kevin Gray Award. Drafted by Kansas City in 2009, Besler hit the ground running and saw a steady rise in form until 2011, when his career took off after being named 2011 Kevin Gray Awards Adult Player of the Year, presented by Pepsi.
"It's a great honor and one that I felt a lot of pride in accepting," Besler said of receiving the award. "Kansas City has always been a place that has many talented athletes. I'm grateful to be amongst such great company with the previous Kevin Gray Award winners."
Since winning his first Kevin Gray Award in 2011 and second in 2013, Besler has thrived in both domestic and international competition. Here are some highlights from his ever-growing list of accomplishments:
- Debuted for the US Men’s National Team on Jan. 29, 2013
- Started 20 games out of 21 games played for USMNT
- Totaled 1,683 minutes in 2013 and 2014
- Started all four games at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, totaling 345 minutes, and is the first player from the state of Kansas to play in a World Cup
- Captain of Sporting Kansas City
- 2014 Kansas City Sportsman of the Year
- MLS All-Star Selection
- Sporting Kansas City Defensive Player of the Year
- Selection to the MLS Best XI
- Helped the defensive unit earn 13 shutouts
- MLS Defender of the Year
- MLS Breakout Player of the Year
- Selection to the MLS Best XI
- Sporting Kansas City Defensive Player of the Year
- Registered two game-winning assists
- Converted PK to help Sporting Kansas City win the U. S. Open Cup
- MLS All-Star Selection
Besler's impressive accolades leave no room for doubt of his superiority on the field. However, something that not everyone knows about the Overland Park, Kansas native is the strength of his passion for giving back to the community. Besler spends countless hours of his time making guest appearances at Sporting Club Network events throughout the year, as well as events for programs like the Victory Project.
"Two of my favorite opportunities to give back to the community are participating in youth clinics around the Kansas City area and also visiting with kids in local hospitals during their treatments and recoveries," Besler said. "The Kansas City community has embraced our team and it's always rewarding for us to be able to return the support."
Besler offers the perfect triple threat: a hometown hero, a champion on the field and in the community, and an inspiration to young soccer players in the Kansas City area. We hope that the excitement Besler has brought to the Soccer Capital of America will rise just as exponentially as his soccer career has since being named Kevin Gray Awards Adult Player of the Year.
Entering Wednesday night's match, 26 players had started an MLS match for Sporting KC in 2014. That number is now 27, after Mikey Lopez made his MLS debut in the 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew.
Sporting KC drafted Lopez with the No. 14 overall selection in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. Lopez featured for the U.S. U-20 Men's National Team at the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup before making his Sporting KC debut against the Des Moince Menace in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup third round match on May 26.
The Texas native started and played 64 minutes in last night's debut, tallying two shots in the match.
Lopez has spent the majority of 2014 on loan to Sporting KC's USL Pro affiliates, appearing in 14 games with Orlando City SC and OKC Energy FC. The 21-year-old midfielder scored his first professional goal for Energy FC in a 2-0 win over Sacramento Republic on June 28.
Sporting Kansas City returns to Sporting Park to host the LA Galaxy following a very successful two-match road trip. Both teams are in great forms with two consecutive victories and at or near the top of their respective conference standings. What will be the key players, factors, and match-ups for the game?
Check out the video below as MLSsoccer.com's Nick Firchau and Matt Doyle break it down.
The Sporting KC Show will air live from 7-8 p.m. CT tonight at Jazz at The Legends (1859 Village West Parkway, Suite 102) with special guest Graham Zusi joining hosts Callum Williams and Andy Edwards on Sports Radio 810 WHB.
Zusi was named to his third MLS All-Star team last night, fishing as one of the top midfielders in the vote for the MLS All-Star Fan XI. The 27-year-old winger appeared in four matches at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, tallying assits in a 2-1 win over Ghana and a 2-2 draw vs. Portugal.
Zusi will discuss the USMNT's recent performance at the World Cup, Sporting KC's busy schedule ahead as well as the club's upcoming match against the LA Galaxy. Sporting KC will host the Galaxy in a nationally-televised match Saturday afternoon at Sporting Park. The match will kick off at 5 p.m. CT and will be broadcast live on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and the WatchESPN app. Limited tickets are available and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com or by calling 888-4KC-GOAL.
Can't make it to Jazz for tonight's show? Listen live on 810 AM, 810whb.com or via the station's free mobile app and join the discussion by calling 913-3-810-810.
Cast your vote below for the Man of the Match from Sporting Kansas City's 2-1 win at the Columbus Crew on Wednesday night. Voting is open through Thursday evening.
The Kevin Gray Awards, presented by Pepsi, are presented annually to soccer players in the Kansas City area for outstanding performances in a single season. Many Gatorade Player of the Year winners and First Team All-State selections have earned Kevin Gray Award honors. However, it is a unique occurrence that we have the pleasure of bestowing this award upon a player whose performance on the field can truly be matched by his performance off the field.
Derek Schrick, the 2012 Kevin Gray Awards Youth Male Player of the Year and a product of the Sporting KC Development Academy, is one such player. During a calendar year, Schrick will work 10 soccer camps around the Kansas City area. He primarily assists at Sporting KC and Rockhurst High School, but will also work camps for UMKC.
Schrick's coaching camp travels take him as far as Sedalia, Missouri, but he still finds a way to make it look easy. “Not only do I try to teach kids new skills in soccer, I always try to make their experience as enjoyable and positive as I can," Schrick said. "Balancing playing, school, and giving back is a challenge, but it can be done with hard work.”
In addition to coaching camps, Schrick gives up more of his time to volunteer with Special Olympics of Kansas City, as well as a program called the UMKC Bags of Fun Soccer Camp, which raises money to buy toys for children in hospitals.
Schrick was named the 2012 Kevin Gray Awards Youth Male Player of the Year after his senior year at Rockhurst High School, where he was named Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year, one of the highest honors a high school athlete can earn. Going into his freshman season at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Schrick was ranked #66 in an ESPN Rise poll and was a Top Drawer Soccer four-star recruit. Schrick played in 16 games for the Mustangs and registered his first point by delivering a game-winning assist in overtime against Harvard. After his freshman season, he transferred closer to home and joined UMKC. Schrick began what will surely be an exceptional career by scoring in the first game of the 2013 season against Wisconsin.
Schrick’s strong performance on the field and commitment to giving back makes him the ideal selection for a Kevin Gray Awards Player of the Year. Look out for him in the future -- if his passion for giving back to the sport continues, there may be an award named after him some day.
Check back on Wednesday to read about our next Kevin Gray Awards Spotlight, Matt Besler! And for all things Sporting Club Network, be sure to follow us on twitter, @SportingKC_SCN, and like us on Facebook!
Sporting Kansas City concludes its two-game road trip with a visit to the Columbus Crew on Wednesday. Peter Vermes' men are fresh off a 2-1 win at Montreal on Saturday as defender Matt Besler and midfielder Graham Zusi started together for the first time since returning from the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Wednesday's contest features the two best-possessing teams in MLS. Should Sporting KC defeat Columbus, it would be the first time in franchise history that the team has won four straight on the road in the same season.
Check out MLSsoccer.com's preview as Dan Haiek and Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle discuss what to watch for on Wednesday. Tune into KMCI-TV 38 the Spot and SKCTV across the Midwest, as coverage begins at 6 p.m. CT.
Jaycie Johnson, winner of the 2013 Kevin Gray Awards Youth Female Player of the Year, made sure to continue to build on her successes from high school soccer almost immediately. She began doing this just months after winning the prestigious award by bursting on the scene at the University of Nebraska women’s soccer program, and followed up by putting on one of the greatest single season performances that the Huskers have ever seen.
In the summer of 2013, Jaycie was named Kevin Gray Awards Youth Female Player of the Year. The Kevin Gray Awards, presented by Pepsi, are given in remembrance of the late Kansas City Sports Commissioner, and recognize the top players, coaches, and ambassadors in the KC soccer community over the past year. On being named Kevin Gray Awards Female Player of the Year, Jacyie said, “It meant the world to me getting honored with this award... It has made me work so much harder towards soccer and my training just to make him proud.”
And work hard she did. At the start of her college career, Jaycie was ranked as the No. 42 Forward in the country, and the No. 4 Forward in the Heartland Region. These rankings certainly proved to be accurate, if not an understatement of the simply extraordinary talent that Jaycie possesses. Just six weeks after Jaycie was honored during half time at a Sporting KC game for earning the title of Kevin Gray Awards Youth Female Player of the Year, Jaycie was leaping in to the arms of her teammates in celebration of scoring the first goal of her college career. This would become a familiar sight during the 2013 Fall season, as Jaycie netted a whopping 17 goals in all competitions, including 7 game winners. Check out some of her video highlights here.
There certainly is no shortage of statistics for the prolific Jaycie Johnson, here are a few of her most notable accomplishments from just her freshman year:
- 2013 All-Big Ten Second Team
- 2013 All-Big Ten Freshman Team - Unanimous Selection
- 2013 Big Ten All-Tournament Team
- 2013 Big Ten Tournament - Offensive Player of the Tournament
- Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week (Aug.26)
- 3X Big Ten Freshman of the Week (Aug. 26,Sept. 23,Oct. 28)
- 2013 TopDrawerSoccer.com Best XI - First Team Freshman
- 2013 Soccer America All-Freshman First Team
- First freshman in NCAA Tournament history to score four goals in a match
- First freshman at Nebraska to score four goals in a match
Big 10 defenders beware, the freshman phenom now has a year of experience under her belt. With 17 goals in her first college season, we can only expect that Jaycie Johnson, 2013 Kevin Gray Awards Female Player of the Year, will continue her spectacular run of form and impress upon the nation the superior kind of talent that soccer players from Kansas City can produce.
Check back in on Wednesday to read about our next Kevin Gray Awards Spotlight: former Sporting KC Academy player, Derek Schrick. And for all things Sporting Club Network, be sure to follow us on twitter, @SportingKC_SCN, and like us on Facebook!