Sporting Kansas City announced recipients for the 2019 Sporting Club Awards on Friday night during Pitch Black presented by Audi. Votes from Sporting players and fans determined the following award winners:
- Most Valuable Player, presented by Audi: Felipe Gutierrez
- Offensive Player of the Year, presented by Ivy Investments: Johnny Russell
- Defensive Player of the Year, presented by Fire Door Solutions: Tim Melia
- Goal of the Year, presented by Heartland Coca-Cola: Benny Feilhaber
Sporting Kansas City also selected award winners in the following categories during the annual celebration at Children’s Mercy Park:
- The Neal and Jeanne Patterson Humanitarians of the Year: Ilie Sanchez and Daniel Salloi
- Swope Park Rangers Most Valuable Player, presented by U.S. Bank: Felipe Hernandez
- Bob Gansler Academy Player of the Year, presented by Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine: Brandt Betts
- Sporting Club Network Member of the Year, presented by Price Chopper: Sporting St. Louis
In an excellent sophomore campaign with Sporting, Gutierrez has scored a team-best 12 goals—tied for the most among MLS midfielders—and become the fourth midfielder in club history to hit double-digit goals in a single regular season. The 28-year-old Chilean international has added four assists and leads Sporting field players in appearances (36), starts (35) and minutes (3,061) across all competitions. In addition to logging four multi-goal games, the fourth-most in MLS in 2019, Gutierrez has made MLS history as the only player during the Opta era (2010-present) to record 12 goals and win 50 tackles in the same season. He is currently in pole position to win Sporting's Golden Boot award, presented to the team's top regular season goal scorer.
Russell, 29, has secured Offensive Player of the Year accolades for the second straight year after tallying nine goals and 10 assists in all competitions. The Scottish international ranks second in MLS with four goals from outside the box and leads Sporting with 58 chances created. Since joining Sporting in early 2018, Russell has stamped his name as one of the premier attacking threats in MLS, becoming one of five players with at least 18 goals and 18 assists over the last two seasons combined (including playoffs).
In his fifth season as Sporting’s goalkeeper, Tim Melia has become the club’s all-time leader in regular season shutouts (45) and goalkeeping wins (62). The 33-year-old has notched a career-high 107 saves and stopped all three penalty kicks he has faced during the 2019 MLS season, becoming the league’s second active keeper with 10 career penalty saves. In all competitions, Melia has earned a team-high 36 starts and kept nine clean sheets—including three shutouts in Sporting’s run to the Concacaf Champions League Semifinals.
On Sept. 7, Feilhaber fired Sporting into a 1-0 lead against the Portland Timbers with a stunning, long-range curler at Providence Park. The strike was voted AT&T MLS Goal of the Week and has now been selected by fans as Sporting’s Goal of the Year, giving Feilhaber his fourth such honor after he claimed the award in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
As the Neal and Jeanne Patterson Humanitarians of the Year, Sanchez and Salloi have embraced active and impactful roles in the Kansas City community. Among their many acts of philanthropy, the two have supported Special Olympics by attending practices and games as well as mentoring kids in the program. They have also donated their time over the past two years to Braden's Hope for Childhood Cancer to raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research.
Sanchez and Salloi have shown dedication to empowering the next generation of aspiring athletes in the local soccer community. They are two of the club's most frequent attendees at youth camps and clinics, taking time to speak to and personally connect with the kids, and bring passion to providing opportunities for underserved and underprivileged youth. The duo are also gracious ambassadors of The Victory Project—Sporting’s philanthropic foundation dedicated to helping children and families affected by philanthropic cancer. Salloi has regularly visited Children’s Mercy Hospital to interact with patients throughout the year, while Ilie welcomes children with cancer to meet the team in conjunction with every home match at Children’s Mercy Park.
Hernandez, 21, became Sporting’s 12th Homegrown Player last month after starring for the Swope Park Rangers throughout 2019. He has started 25 of 26 USL Championship appearances, ranking second on the team in both goals (eight) and assists (four). Born in Colombia and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Hernandez is the first individual to progress along the club’s full player pathway, rising from an Academy Affiliate club (Sporting Nashville Heroes) to the Sporting KC Academy to the Swope Park Rangers before joining the senior team. He made his MLS debut on Sept. 7 at Portland, just eight days after inking his first MLS contract.
A native of Raymore, Missouri, Betts has competed for Sporting at the U-14 through U-19 levels since joining the Academy in 2015. The 18-year-old defender was an integral member of the Sporting KC U-17 and U-19 sides that reached the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoffs in 2018 and 2019, respectively. In addition to demonstrating great work ethic on the field, Betts has been equally invested in community outreach while serving as a leader and role model to other Academy players.