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, fans and media determined the following award winners:
- Most Valuable Player presented by Audi: Alan Pulido
- Offensive Player of the Year presented by Compass Minerals: Erik Thommy
- Defensive Player of the Year presented by Brush Creek Partners: Jake Davis
- Newcomer of the Year: Dany Rosero
- Goal of the Year presented by Parisi Coffee: Erik Thommy
- Save of the Year: Tim Melia
Sporting Kansas City also selected award winners in the following categories:
- Golden Boot presented by Brummel Lawn & Landscape LLC: Alan Pulido
- Neal and Jeanne Patterson Humanitarian of the Year presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City: Graham Zusi
- Sporting KC II Most Valuable Player presented by Central Bank of the Midwest: Lucas Rosa
- Bob Gansler Academy Player of the Year presented by Children’s Mercy Kansas City: Nati Clarke
- Sporting Club Network Member of the Year presented by Price Chopper: Sporting Wichita
The recipient of Sporting Kansas City’s Golden Boot and Most Valuable Player awards, Pulido has recorded 15 goals and three assists in all competitions this season as the team’s joint leader in total goal contributions. A frontrunner for MLS Comeback Player of the Year after missing all of the 2022 season due to injury, Pulido was named MLS Player of the Month in June and leads the league with 13 goals since the start of June. The World Cup veteran is the sixth player in club history with 14 goals in a single regular season and this year Pulido has become the club’s all-time leader in goals per game. Pulido first joined Sporting in 2020 – winning the club’s Golden Boot and Offensive Player of the Year award in his first season – and he recently extended his contract with the club through 2026.
Voted the team’s Offensive Player of the Year, Thommy has tallied five goals and 13 assists in all competitions this season to tie for the team lead in total goal contributions. Since arriving in Kansas City last summer, the 29-year-old German was named Sporting’s Newcomer of the Year in 2022 and now in his first full year has become just the fifth player in club history to log 11 assists in a single regular season.
Thommy also took home the team’s Goal of the Year for his stunning long-range strike in a 4-1 win over the Portland Timbers on May 28 at Children’s Mercy Park. A right-footed playmaker, Thommy’s game-tying goal in the 33rd minute came with his left foot – on a shot with an expected goal value of 0.019 according to Opta – and sparked a Sporting KC comeback as the team is now 8-0-0 when Thommy scores in the regular season. Thommy’s three goals from outside the penalty area this season are most on the team and fifth most in Major League Soccer.
Becoming the first Sporting KC Academy product to collect the club’s Defensive Player of the Year award, Davis has enjoyed a breakout season at right back where he has started each of Sporting’s last 22 MLS matches across all competitions. Davis leads all MLS defenders in tackles won since breaking into the starting lineup on April 29 while also adding two assists, highlighted by the game-winning assist against St. Louis CITY SC on September 2. The 21-year-old is a nominee for MLS Young Player of the Year and has played the sixth most regular season minutes by a U-22 player in club history.
Named Newcomer of the Year after debuting in April, Rosero is the first Sporting KC centerback to receive the award since Ike Opara in 2013. Rosero leads the team in clearances (99), aerial duels won (64) and blocks (21) during the regular season and – among players who have started at least half of their club’s matches – leads all MLS defenders with a 90.4% passing accuracy. Rosero joined Sporting in March via a transfer from Atletico Junior after more than 300 professional appearances in Argentina and Colombia.
Sporting Kansas City’s newest honor, Save of the Year, was awarded to Melia for his superb stop in the 74th minute of the club’s 1-0 road win at Minnesota United FC on September 16. Melia’s moment of magic denied Finnish international Teemu Pukki - one of the top strikers in Major League Soccer with nine goals in his past eight games – on a shot with an expected goal value of 0.589 according to Opta. In his 14th season, Melia is the club’s all-time goalkeeping leader in wins, shutouts and saves.
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. Zusi first won the award in 2018 and earned his second Humanitarian of the Year accolade on Friday. A leading figure in Sporting’s partnership with Children’s Mercy, Zusi regularly visits the hospital for interactive activities with youth patients and participates in Children’s Mercy fundraisers such as the Volley Llama at Chicken N Pickle. He has also been a longtime champion of The Victory Project, making appearances at events tied to the foundation and welcoming Victory Project honorees at team trainings, often surprising guests with a pair of signed soccer cleats to help create unforgettable moments for children and their families. In addition, Zusi showed his support for Special Olympics athletes on May 28 at Children’s Mercy Park by taking the field after Sporting’s home win against Portland for friendly competition with youth athletes from across the metro.
Rosa was recognized as Sporting KC II’s Most Valuable Player after leading head coach Benny Feilhaber’s team in minutes (2253), appearances (28) and starts (24) in his first year of professional soccer. An alumnus of the University of Pittsburgh, Rosa joined SKC II in early March after guiding the Panthers to the 2022 NCAA Men’s College Cup, delivering the match-winning assist in the NCAA Tournament elite eight. The Brazilian was a model of consistency for SKC II this season, appearing in every single match, the only player on the team to do so. The right back tallied four goals and five assists with three of his four goals taking home MLS NEXT Pro Goal of the Matchday honors.
Clarke was honored as the Bob Gansler Academy Player of the Year after competing in the 2023 MLS NEXT All-Star Game presented by Allstate. Born in Ethiopia and raised in Topeka, Kansas, Clarke has represented the Sporting KC Academy with class at every level since joining the program in 2016. The defender has been capped by the US Youth National Team at the U-15 levels, appearing in all three matches at the 2019 UEFA Development Tournament in Poland, donning the captain’s armband twice. This season, in his second stint with Sporting KC II on an amateur contract, Clarke started 18 of 20 appearances. He bagged his first two professional assists and was named MLS NEXT Rising Star of Matchday 19. At the MLS NEXT All-Star game he helped guide the West to a come-from-behind, shootout victory, playing the entire second half and sinking his attempt in the shootout.
Led by Director of Coaching Qaies Alamood and Technical Director Ruy Vaz, Sporting Wichita was selected as the Sporting Club Network Member of the Year. Since starting as a single team in 2002, the club has grown to 55 teams and over 600 players between the ages of 3-19. Sporting Wichita joined the Sporting KC Academy Affiliate program in 2015 and has developed a robust player development pathway with youth teams which won state, regional and national tournaments this year and a semi-pro first team which reached the UPSL National Finals in August.