Five Sporting Kansas City players and Manager Peter Vermes are finalists for Major League Soccer’s annual awards, the club announced on Thursday. Given to the top vote recipient in selected categories, the 2012 MLS Postseason Awards were voted on by media members, as well as all 19 clubs and their players.
The following Sporting Kansas City representatives are among the final three candidates in their respective award category:
Defender of the Year Finalists (announced Nov. 20)
Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City)
Aurelien Collin (Sporting Kansas City)
Victor Bernardez (San Jose Earthquakes)
MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Year Finalists (announced Nov. 20)
Kei Kamara (Sporting Kansas City)
Michael Lahoud (Philadelphia Union)
Chris Seitz (FC Dallas)
Coach of the Year Finalists (announced Nov. 27)
Peter Vermes (Sporting Kansas City)
Ben Olsen (D.C. United)
Frank Yallop (San Jose Earthquakes)
Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year Finalists (announced Nov. 28)
Jimmy Nielsen (Sporting Kansas City)
Michael Gspurning (Seattle Sounders FC)
Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA)
Volkswagen Most Valuable Player Finalists (announced Nov. 29)
Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls)
Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
Besler and Collin, a 2012 MLS All-Star, led a Sporting Kansas City defense that allowed 27 goals in 34 MLS matches, the fewest goals conceded by an MLS team this season. The two central defenders anchored a backline that limited opponents to the fewest shots (328) and shots on goal (102) of all 19 teams this season. Besler (No. 25 overall) and Collin (No. 31 overall) are the two highest-ranked defenders in the MLS Castrol Index and Sporting KC went 14-4-6 during the regular season with Besler and Collin in the starting lineup, including a 7-2-4 record against teams in the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Kamara, a 2012 MLS All-Star, established the HeartShapedHands Foundation in 2012 and his support of Schools for Salone has provided scholarships for students in his native Sierra Leone, where the Kei Kamara Home and School for War Orphans was built in Freetown. Kamara was a finalist for the Courage in Sports Award and was also the subject of the documentary-length film KEI about his life story and desire to make a difference since immigrating to the United States as a youth. Kamara finished fourth in the 2011 Humanitarian of the Year category for his charitable work at home and abroad.
Vermes, also a finalist for Coach of the Year honors in 2011, led Sporting KC to the best regular season in club history with an 18-7-9 record. The club finished in first place in the Eastern Conference for the second straight season and set new all-time club records for wins in regulation (18), winning percentage (.662) and points (63) in 2012. Vermes built a roster that was the only playoff team with an average age under 25 and one of only two teams in Major League Soccer without a Designated Player.
Nielsen played every minute in net for Sporting KC this season, setting new club records for minutes played (3,060) and games started (34). He started the 2012 MLS All-Star Game and led MLS with 15 shutouts, second most in MLS history, and 18 victories, matching the MLS record in the non-shootout era. His 0.79 goals against average became the best in club history, breaking Tony Meola’s record set in 2000 with a 0.92 goals against average.
Zusi led Major League Soccer during the regular season with a career-high 15 assists, third most in club history, and a team-record five game-winning assists, most in MLS. Including his five regular season goals and game-winning assist in the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs, Zusi scored or assisted on 21 of the team’s 43 goals in MLS competition. Sporting KC was 13-1-3 in MLS competition (including playoffs) in 2012 when Zusi recorded a goal or an assist. Zusi also made six appearances for the U.S. Men's National Team in 2012.
Video of Sporting Kansas City's 2012 nominees:
The six finalists for MLS Awards are the most in club history. In 2000, Kansas City had five nominees and four winners (Bob Gansler – Coach of the Year, Peter Vermes – Defender of the Year, Tony Meola – Goalkeeper of the Year and Most Valuable Player plus Nick Garcia – Rookie of the Year finalist). In addition to the 2012 MLS Postseason Awards, Sporting Kansas City players are also nominated for awards through Major League Soccer’s official websites MLSSoccer.com and FutbolMLS.com. Julio Cesar and C.J. Sapong are nominated for AT&T Goal of the Year, while Nielsen is nominated multiple times for Save of the Year. Finally, 2012 MLS All-Star Roger Espinoza and fellow midfielder Julio Cesar are amongst the final 16 contenders for Latino del Año in MLS.