Jimmy Nielsen vs Philadelphia Union DL
Getty Images

Sporting KC announces 2011 team awards

Sporting Kansas City announced the team's annual awards on Saturday prior to the team's regular season home finale against the New York Red Bulls at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. The following awards were voted on by Sporting Kansas City players, coaches and media members:

  • Sporting Kansas City 2011 Most Valuable Player: Jimmy Nielsen
  • Sporting Kansas City 2011 Defensive Player of the Year: Matt Besler
  • Sporting Kansas City 2011 MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Year: Kei Kamara
  • 2011 Bob Gansler Award, given to the Most Outstanding Juniors Player of the Year: Nate Opperman

Please note: The Sporting Kansas City 2011 Budweiser Golden Boot will be awarded to the team's top goal scorer following the completion of the 2011 MLS Regular Season. Currently, Kamara and Designated Player Omar Bravo are tied for the team lead with nine goals, with Teal Bunbury is third on the club chart with eight goals this season.

Nielsen earned the most votes for Sporting Kansas City 2011 Most Valuable Player, recording 72 saves in 29 appearances to date this season. Behind a 1.22 goals against average in 2011, the "White Puma" as he is called by fans has led the club to five shutouts thus far in 2011 and his 10 victories are tied for seventh most amongst MLS goalkeepers this year. The 2010 MLS All-Star is a three-time winner of Major League Soccer's AT&T Save of the Week after garnering eight nominations, and was twice named to Major League Soccer's Team of the Week to go along with two honorable mention selections.

Besler, a 2011 MLS All-Star, was named Sporting Kansas City 2011 Defensive Player of the Year. The Overland Park, Kansas native leads all Sporting Kansas City players in minutes played this season with 2,700 to date and has started each of the team's last 25 MLS matches. He has contributed to seven Sporting Kansas City shutouts this season and in addition to his defensive duties as the team's most consistent center back, he scored his first career MLS goal and recorded his first career MLS assists in his third year as a professional this season. Sporting Kansas City also capitalized on Besler's trademark long throw-ins this season, scoring five goals as a direct result of the specialized set piece.

Kamara was chosen Sporting Kansas City 2011 MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Year for his involvement in the community this season. Tied for the team-lead in goals scored this season, Kamara made an equally large impact off the field in 2011. The Sierra Leone international has been actively involved in the club’s Sporting 22 programs and McDonald's Youth Clinics, while also taking time to visit local schools, organize unique community events and support charitable organizations. He has been recognized for his humanitarian efforts in Sierra Leone by continuing his innovative scholarship program in his hometown of Kenema, as well as hosting charity soccer matches and donating equipment to local youth soccer organizations in need.

Opperman was awarded the 2011 Bob Gansler Award, given to the youth academy's Most Outstanding Juniors Player of the Year. Opperman, a senior at Olathe South High School, played in 23 games for the Sporting Kansas City Under-16 Juniors during the 2010-11 US Soccer Development Academy season, leading the team with eight goals against the top club teams in the Central Conference. He also scored four goals at the U17 Generation adidas Cup and has started three matches for the Sporting Kansas City senior team in the 2011 MLS Reserve League to date. Opperman is verbally committed to beginning his college career at the University of Evansville.

VIDEO: Manager Peter Vermes presents Opperman the Bob Gansler Award