Kansas City soccer’s best honored at 2015 Kevin Gray Awards

On Monday, the 2015 Kevin Gray Awards were held at Sporting Park in the Boulevard Members Club. The annual event, which is hosted in honor and memory of the late Kansas City Sports Commission president Kevin Gray, brought together 100 guests in order to recognize the best players, coaches and ambassadors for soccer in the KC metro area.

Presented by Pepsi and co-sponsored by Sporting Kansas City and Global Sports International, the awards are composed of six categories with three finalists nominated within each group. The highlight of the ceremony includes the KGA Show, anchored by Dave Stewart of Time Warner Cable SportsChannel, during which the winner of each category is revealed. This year’s installment of the show began with a quick interview with Caroline Gray, the daughter of Kevin and the 2011 Youth Female Player of the Year. Over the course of Caroline’s conversation with Dave, Kevin Gray’s tremendous contribution to sports—and particularly to soccer—in Kansas City was discussed. She mentioned how her father recognized the significant demand for a re-branded professional team in the area as well the serious potential the sport possessed in terms of growth and future success.

Following Dave’s interview with Caroline, the focus of the show shifted to the 2015 nominees. The finalists, decided upon by a panel of Kansas City soccer leaders, were brought forward to the stage as their names were called and each was recognized with a short description of his/her soccer achievements. The winner of that category was then announced, after which a short acceptance interview with the Time Warner Cable SportsChannel host ensued.

This year, we began with the Adult Player of the Year category. Sporting Kansas City captain and U.S. MNT standout defender Matt Besler was crowned the winner of this first award, and Jon Kempin and Shea Groom were acknowledged as finalists. See below for a quick listing of these nominees’ accomplishments:

  • Matt Besler – in his 2nd season as Sporting KC captain, named to U.S. MNT for 2014 World Cup (first person from state of Kansas) -- became integral part of back line in US path to the knockout stage, 2014 KC Sportsman of the Year
  • Jon Kempin – Became Sporting KC’s first-ever homegrown player when signed in 2010 at age 17, attended Blue Valley North and is a Leawood native, named to U.S. MNT roster in January, has represented U14 thru U23 levels for the US
  • Shea Groom – Three-time All-SEC performer, scored 41 goals in four years at Texas A&M, 2011 grad from Liberty High School, recently called up to U23 U.S. WNT and selected by FC Kansas City with 12th pick in 2015 College Draft

Next, we turned to the Male Youth Player of the Year group, which was comprised of players selected for their club and high school soccer success. Zane Moxley was chosen as this year’s recipient; however, he was not able to make it to the event as he has already left for college at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. Instead, Zane’s father, Justin, was interviewed and accepted the honor on Zane’s behalf. Below are some of the highlights of each finalists’ youth soccer careers:

  • Zane Moxley – U18 Sporting KC Academy defender, earned all-conference and regional honors while playing at Olathe Northwest and was an honor student there as well, committed to Air Force Academy
  • Nic Jaimes – 2014 Bob Gansler Award winner for Sporting KC Academy Player of the Year, was invited to train with Sporting KC reserves in 2014, also a member of the US Futsal National Team & traveled to Argentina with them last August, playing at Drake next fall
  • Bryce Gibson – Also member of the U18 Sporting KC Academy team that is coming off a very strong showing in the USSDA playoffs; earned MVP honors at Creighton Soccer Academy in 2014, named to all-conference team and was league’s leading scorer his sophomore year at Lee’s Summit North, playing at Creighton next year

The 2015 Female Youth Player of the Year, Parker Roberts, was announced next, alongside finalists Jamie Kutey—a club teammate of Parker’s—and St. Teresa’s midfielder Dorian Bailey, whose mother received the award on her behalf. Check out some of these girls’ achievements below:

  • Parker Roberts – Midfielder for Blue Valley North and the KC Metro Dynamos, also a two-time Kansas Gatorade player of the year, selected to travel to Spain as a member of U20 U.S. WNT in June, signed with KU
  • Jamie Kutey – Forward for St. Thomas Aquinas and the KC Metro Dynamos, led the Saints to their 6th straight Kansas 6A title in May (scored both goals in championship), holds STA all-time scoring record with 88 goals in her four years, committed to Marquette
  • Dorian Bailey – Midfielder for St. Teresa’s Academy and Sporting Blue Valley, two-time Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year, has been key contributor for U17, U18, and U19 U.S. WNT, committed to play at the University of North Carolina

Once the Player of the Year awards had been given out, several coaches were recognized for their impressive success within the past year. The Youth Coach of the Year award was bestowed upon Craig Ewing, while Matt Trumpp and Derek Shoare were also spotlighted for their selection as finalists.

  • Craig Ewing – Coach of St. Thomas Aquinas boys’ and girls’ soccer programs since the school’s opening in 1988, NHSCA Boys Coach of the Year for 2009, has won 16 boys state championships (eight in last 11 years) and 15 girls state titles (six straight following 2015 win)
  • Matt Trumpp – Coached for Blue Valley Soccer Club from 2005-11, started coaching for Sporting KC Academy in 2011, his SKC teams have won five state championships, also a teacher in the Olathe School District
  • Derek Shoare – Three-time Kansas Competitive Coach of the Year, 2013 Region II Coach of the Year, has won 17 State Cup Championships as director of KC Metro Dynamos club teams

The Adult Coach of the Year winner was revealed shortly after. Vlatko Andonovski is the 2015 recipient of this award, and UMKC coach Chris Cissell as well as Benedictine coach Lincoln Roblee were finalists in the category. Read below for a brief run-through of their most notable accomplishments.

  • Vlatko Andonovski – Manager of FC Kansas City and Missouri Comets, 2013 NWSL Coach of the Year, won both NWSL and MISL Championships with his teams in 2014
  • Chris Cissell – Current head coach for UMKC women’s soccer team, led ‘Roos to their first regular season conference title in 2014, combined 20 seasons as head coach at William Jewell, 2010 National Coach of the Year finalist
  • Lincoln Roblee – Head Coach of women’s soccer team at Benedictine College since 2005; since his arrival, the Ravens have become a nationally-ranked NAIA program, have won two straight regular season championships and won last year’s Heart of America Conference Postseason tournament

Finally, the last award of the night went to the 2015 Soccer Ambassador of the Year, Tim Knox. Prior to his interview with Dave Stewart, Tim’s long list of soccer achievements was made known to all in attendance. Simply put, Knox’s tireless efforts to support and grow the game in Kansas City make him an excellent choice for the Ambassador of the Year honor. From his successes as a player at St. Louis University, to his “founding father” status within the Kansas City youth club soccer community, to his receiving the 2010 State of Kansas Lifetime Achievement Award, there are very few things relating to KC youth soccer that are not connected, at least in some part, to the workings of Tim Knox. 

Congratulations to all of the 2015 Kevin Gray Awards finalists and winners. The show is set to be televised on tape delay by TWC SportsChannel on Tuesday, July 21, at 7 p.m. CT. A photo album from last night's event is also available on the Sporting Club Network Facebook page.