Two Sporting Kansas City players have been named finalists for Major League Soccer’s end-of-year awards, the League announced on Tuesday. Midfielder Benny Feilhaber is one of three players nominated for the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award, while goalkeeper Tim Melia is a finalist for MLS Comeback Player of the Year.
The finalists for both awards earned the most votes in polling of three voting groups:
- Current MLS players
- MLS clubs (Coaches, Technical Directors, Chief Business Officers and select Digital/PR Directors)
- Media members who regularly covered MLS in 2015
Feilhaber, 30, set MLS career-highs in 2015 with 10 goals and 15 assists, ranking second in MLS in the latter category and becoming one of four players across the League to reach double-digits in both goals and assists. He added two goals and five assists in Sporting Kansas City’s run to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship, becoming the club’s all-time assist leader in the tournament. Across all competitions in 2015, Feilhaber started 36 of 38 appearances and recorded a club-record 20 assists, including five of the game-winning variety in MLS.
“I am very excited to be nominated for MLS MVP,” Feilhaber said. “It all has to do with the players that have been around me. My teammates make my job a lot easier so I’m really thankful for them and for our fans that always stand behind us. Collectively, we’ve done something really special this year by bringing the U.S. Open Cup trophy back to Kansas City.”
Sporting Kansas City’s 2015 MVP, Feilhaber was selected Etihad Airways MLS Player of the Month in April before earning MLS All-Star honors for the first time in his career. He was named to the All-Star Fan XI and competed in the 2015 MLS All-Star Game on July 29. Feilhaber played a part in 32 of Sporting KC’s 64 goals in all competitions and helped lead the team to its fifth consecutive appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs. He finished the regular season among the top 10 MLS midfielders in chances created (5th), recoveries (7th), duels won (7th) and tackles won (10th).
Feilhaber is in contention to be the third player in Sporting KC history to receive an MLS MVP award behind midfielder Preki (1997, 2003) and goalkeeper Tony Meola (2000). Feilhaber’s teammate Graham Zusi was a finalist in 2012.
Melia, 29, enjoyed a breakout sixth MLS season in 2015 after previously backing up MLS All-Stars Nick Rimando at Real Salt Lake (2010-11) and Dan Kennedy at Chivas USA (2012-14). He was waived by Chivas USA in July 2014 and served as a League Pool Goalkeeper during the latter half of the year. After earning emergency call-ups from Sporting KC, FC Dallas and D.C. United, he signed for Sporting KC in December.
Melia secured a starting role in May and became the first goalkeeper in MLS history to record six shutouts in his first nine League matches for a new club. He ended the season with nine clean sheets and a 15-8-5 record in all competitions, making two saves in Sporting Kansas City’s victorious penalty shootout win over the Philadelphia Union in the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final.
“This team showed a lot of resolve throughout the season, which is a credit to the type of players that we have. We were unfortunate to not go deeper in the playoffs but overall we have to be proud of the whole season, especially the U.S. Open Cup championship, and look forward to going further with this group," Melia said. "For me personally, I’m happy to have gotten the opportunity to play week in and week out, and I feel fortunate for the chance Peter Vermes gave me to showcase myself to the best of my ability.”
Among MLS goalkeepers, Melia finished third with a 72.6 save percentage while also ranking in the top 10 in wins, shutouts and goals against average despite serving as a backup in March and April. He was a six-time member of the MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week and was named MLS Player of the Week on Oct. 5 after starring in a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers two days earlier.
Kansas City players have won the MLS Comeback Player of the Year award on four occasions, more than any other team. Tony Meola landed the honor in 2000, Chris Klein was a two-time recipient in 2002 and 2005, and Eddie Johnson took the award in 2007.
The Comeback Player of the Year award will be announced on Wednesday, Nov. 18, while the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award will be announced on Wednesday, Dec. 2.