Sporting Kansas City announced recipients of the club’s annual awards on Friday night at Children’s Mercy Park during Pitch Black presented by Audi.
Votes cast by Sporting players and fans determined the following award winners:
- Most Valuable Player presented by Audi: Johnny Russell
- Offensive Player of the Year presented by Anheuser Busch: Daniel Salloi
- Defensive Player of the Year presented by Brush Creek Partners: Andreu Fontas
- Newcomers of the Year presented by Coca-Cola: Willy Agada and Erik Thommy
- Goal of the Year presented by Parisi Coffee: Roger Espinoza (July 9)
Sporting Kansas City also selected award winners in the following categories:
- Neal and Jeanne Patterson Humanitarians of the Year: Johnny Russell and Khiry Shelton
- Sporting KC II Most Valuable Player: Jahon Rad
- Bob Gansler Academy Player of the Year presented by Children’s Mercy: Alex Umana
- Sporting Club Network Member of the Year presented by Price Chopper: Sporting Springfield
In addition, the club’s Golden Boot presented by Compass Minerals will be awarded to the team’s top regular-season goal scorer following Sporting’s season finale on Oct. 9. Russell is currently in pole position for the honor with eight regular season goals, followed closely by Salloi and Agada with seven goals each ahead of the final two matches of the campaign.
Voted Sporting Kansas City’s Most Valuable Player this year, Russell has contributed a team-leading 10 goals to go along with two assists across all competitions in 2022. The Scotsman has 80 regular season goal contributions (48 goals, 32 assists) since signing with SKC in 2018, which ranks third most among all MLS players. In addition, Sporting’s club captain has become one of only two active MLS players to score six or more goals in each of the past five regular season campaigns.
An MLS All-Star and MVP finalist a year ago, Salloi has recorded nine goals and four assists in all competitions in 2022 as the Hungarian international once again leads the club in goal contributions and was voted Sporting’s Offensive Player of the Year. A Sporting KC Academy product, Salloi has become one of the top scoring Homegrown Players in MLS history with 41 career goals in MLS matches and the 26-year-old signed a new four-year contract in August to remain with Sporting through 2026.
For a second straight year, Fontas collected the club’s Defensive Player of the Year award. The 32-year-old centerback once again leads the team in passes (1,692), touches (1,966) and clearances (93) while also contributing a career-high two goals in 26 appearances. In two seasons as a starter for Sporting Kansas City in 2021 and 2022, the Spaniard leads all MLS players in goals added (8.03) – an advanced metric that measures a player’s on-ball contribution in both attack and defense – since the start of 2021, ranking ahead of last year’s league MVP Carles Gil (8.01) and this year’s Golden Boot leader and MVP frontrunner Hany Mukhtar (6.73).
Agada and Thommy were each named Newcomers of the Year after arriving in the summer transfer window. The duo debuted on July 23 and have sparked a strong run of form for Sporting KC as the team is now unbeaten in six straight matches and amidst a run of five consecutive wins at home. The 23-year-old Agada has seven goals in his last seven starts and the Nigerian striker’s nine goal contributions (seven goals and two assists) rank third most amongst MLS summer signings behind Federico Bernardeschi (11) and Cucho Hernandez (11). Among players with five goals, Agada ranks second in MLS this season in goals per 90 minutes played (0.85) and second in club history for goals per game (0.70) in a single season. The 28-year-old Thommy has become a dynamic playmaking presence in the midfield, contributing three goals and an assist while leading the team in chances created (18) since his debut. The Bundesliga veteran currently ranks second in Major League Soccer in successful dribble percentage (85.7).
Espinoza took home the team’s Goal of the Year for his stunning strike from 44 yards out in a 2-1 road win at CF Montreal on July 9. The 35-year-old World Cup veteran won the ball inside the center circle at midfield and launched a spectacular shot that looped over the outstretched arm of the goalkeeper for the game-tying goal in the 29th minute. Espinoza’s equalizer – his 13th MLS goal in 13 seasons – was named AT&T MLS Goal of the Week for Week 19 and stands as the second-longest goal from open play over the last three MLS seasons. Among Sporting KC players, Espinoza’s goal is the longest from the run of play – and the second-longest distance goal overall – in an MLS match during the Opta era (2010-present).
Sporting’s annual Humanitarian of the Year award is named after the late Sporting KC owner Neal Patterson and his wife Jeanne, both of whom passed away from cancer in 2017 after leaving a remarkable philanthropic impact on the Kansas City community. Russell and Shelton were honored as co-Humanitarians of the Year on Friday for embracing active roles both locally and nationally.
Russell has championed The Victory Project by participating in several interactive events tied to the foundation, including virtual visits to youth patients at Children’s Mercy Hospital, a J. Rieger & Co. tasting with guests from The Victory Gala, a team-centric activity at Breakout KC and an appearance at the Sporting Invitational. The Sporting KC captain also welcomed Victory Project honorees at team trainings, warmly connecting guests to his teammates and creating unforgettable moments for visiting children and their families. During Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, Russell helped raise awareness for pediatric cancer as a Kick Childhood Cancer ambassador. He also hosted the Johnny Russell Pro Player Camp on Sept. 5, the day after Sporting played on the road in Los Angeles, by coaching and engaging with youth soccer players from across the city.
Shelton has received the Neal and Jeanne Patterson Humanitarian of the Year honor for the second time after first earning the award in 2020. At the forefront, Shelton continued his partnership with Shadow Buddies by supplying dolls for youths receiving treatment at Children’s Mercy Hospital, including the launch of the new ID Buddy and Diabetes Buddy. He volunteered at multiple Victory Project experiences, attending the Victory Gala and participating in an equipment donation drive for Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City. Shelton currently mentors a local child as a Big at Big Brothers Big Sisters Kansas City and continues to serve as Sporting’s representative on Black Players for Change, a coalition of Major League Soccer players that establishes programs and policies to address systemic racism and aid the Black community in attaining both health equality and economic opportunity.
Rad was recognized as Sporting KC II’s Most Valuable Player after recording a career-high 21 appearances for head coach Benny Feilhaber in the team’s inaugural MLS NEXT Pro campaign this season. The 21-year-old showcased his versatility – logging minutes as both a defender and as a midfielder – while also captaining the club. A product of the Sporting KC Academy, Rad moved to Kansas City from his native North Carolina in 2016 and first joined Sporting KC II on an academy contract from 2018-2020. Now in his fifth season with SKCII, Rad is the longest tenured member of the squad and has played in 54 career matches after making 33 appearances in the USL Championship from 2018-2021.
Umana was honored as the Academy Player of the Year after helping the Sporting KC Academy U-19s qualify for the 2021-22 MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs as runners-up in the Frontier Division. A native of Lincoln, Nebraska, the 18-year-old forward first joined the Sporting KC Academy in 2016 as a member of the U-13s. Umana was called up the El Salvador U-20 Men’s National Team for the 2022 Dallas Cup in April – where he scored goals in three consecutive games to help El Salvador reach the final – and most recently made three appearances for El Salvador at the 2022 Concacaf U-20 Championship in June. The Olathe South High School alum now attends Yale University and has made three appearances in his freshman season for the Bulldogs, who are the only unbeaten team in the Ivy League.
Founded in 1999 and a Sporting KC Academy Affiliate since 2016, Sporting Springfield was selected as the Sporting Club Network Member of the Year. Led by Executive Director Eric Sorlie, Sporting Springfield offers recreational and competitive programming for male and female players in the U-4 through U-19 age groups in Southwest Missouri. The club’s player development model was highlighted this year by the professional debut of 17-year-old Sporting KC II defender Draven Barnett, who made four appearances in MLS NEXT Pro and is currently a freshman at Temple University. In addition, Sporting Springfield joined the ECNL Boys Heartland Conference in 2022 and the club became the anchor tenant in the new Betty & Bobby Allison Sports Town Complex spanning 82 acres with 12 outdoor fields and two indoor fields.
Sporting Kansas City will aim to extend the club’s unbeaten run on Sunday, Oct. 2 in the team’s home finale against Seattle Sounders FC. The Western Conference clash will be nationally televised on FS1 and FOX Deportes with kick off set for 4:25 p.m. CT at Children’s Mercy Park. Tickets for the club’s annual Fan Appreciation Match are available online at SeatGeek.com and the first 5,000 fans in attendance will receive Sporting KC key chains courtesy of match sponsor UMKC.