SALT LAKE CITY - Real Salt Lake today announced the inaugural recipients of the team's annual award winners, with MF Andy Williams capturing the Honda Most Valuable Player honor, FW Jason Kreis earning the Budweiser Golden Boot, DF Eddie Pope being named the MLS Defender of the Year and MF Brian Kamler honored as the U.S. Soccer Foundation Humanitarian of the Year.
"We are honored to recognize these players for their efforts this season," Pastorino said. "History will now record their contributions to our Inaugural Season. I also know that each of them would trade the individual accolades for a playoff berth - and that selflessness gives us a foundation to build upon in 2006."
Andy Williams - RSL 2005 Honda Most Valuable Player
Williams has dazzled fans with his tricky footwork and the explosive shooting which has earned him the nickname "Bomber" and bolted him into second place on the team in goals (5), his career high, and assists (3). The former Jamaican National Team captain has spent time with five different MLS teams over his eight-year career and has played in 25 games for RSL, all starts, tallying 2,012 minutes. Williams saw time in various positions for RSL this season, primarily as a playmaking midfielder but also on the right side and up top as either a withdrawn forward or an out-and-out striker. On August 6, Williams tallied the 5,000th goal in Major League Soccer history with his 49th minute strike against expansion brethren CD Chivas USA, a goal which was the first scored this season by RSL in Rice-Eccles' north end. Williams previous MVP was in 2001 as a member the New England Revolution.
"Andy Williams was bummed after being placed on the expansion draft last year and we picked him as our No. 1 knowing what his abilities are," Ellinger said. "Andy was slow at first, but once he kicked into gear he has been our best player on the field game in and game out. He is one of those players who consistently involved in getting things going on the field."
"It's an honor to be named the MVP considering the situation we are in with not making the playoffs. We tried our best this year and gave it there all, but I am just fortunate to receive this award," Williams said. "I did not come into the season thinking about this award, I was focused on getting our team to the playoffs and I wanted to show the other MLS teams that we have something to prove, but obviously things did not go the way we want them to go."
Jason Kreis - RSL 2005 Budweiser Golden Boot Honoree
Real Salt Lake's first-ever player became the face of the expansion franchise when he arrived nearly a year ago as Major League Soccer's All-Time Leading Scorer. During the 2005 season, Kreis became the first and only player in League history to attain the 100-goal threshold, impressing throughout the 2005 season by netting a team-leading nine goals and adding four assists to become the team's Budweiser Golden Boot winner. The Park City, Utah resident played in 24 games, all starts, totaling 2,160 minutes of play as captain during the 10th MLS season of his career, a season which came to a premature end due to a torn ACL in his left knee. Kreis became the first player in MLS history to score 100 goals with a historic, highlight-reel blast in the 72nd-minute of Real Salt Lake's 4-2 home loss to the Kansas City Wizards on Aug. 13. Kreis was honored as Dallas Burns Budweiser Scoring Champion during the 2000 and 2002 season. Kreis, who became the first American-born player to win Major League Soccer's MVP award in 1999, scored the team's first-ever road goal on April 9 at Los Angeles, and tallied game-winning goals in home victories over both the Galaxy and CD Chivas USA.
"You can't say enough good things about Jason Kreis. He has been a great leader and has our leading goal scorer," Ellinger said. "There's no question when we lost him we lost a lot of our team fighting spirit. He kept us going when we needed him the most and he's still got a lot of soccer left in him."
"The award represents an honor for me in the effort that I have put in during the off season for the 2005 season," Kreis said. "This also represents a reminder to me that I need to get back to that point next year as I go through this rehabilitation process. Anytime that you're the captain you have to lead and the best way to that is to lead by example. Leading the team a statistical category will do that."
Eddie Pope - RSL 2005 Defender of Year
While the North Carolina native has played in just 20 games for Real Salt Lake during the expansion team's inaugural season due to U.S. National Team duty and injuries, Eddie Pope has truly made a difference on the RSL backline when he is in the lineup. Starting in central defense alongside a myriad of teammates throughout the year, Pope notched his only RSL goal with a dramatic equalizer shortly after halftime in the 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Galaxy on May 14. Pope has played in 20 games, all starts, totaling 1,756 minutes in the central defense for the team. The classy defender scored the game-winning goal in MLS Cup '96 and has also claimed personal accolades by winning the 1997 MLS Defender of the Year award, along with MLS Best XI honors in 1997, 1998, 2003 and 2004. He was honored for his work in the community in 2000, when he accepted D.C. United's New York Life Humanitarian of the Year award for his work with the foundation in the D.C. area that bears his name. Pope captured MLS Defender of the Year honors in 2003 and has been a finalist for the award several times during his career. Pope, one of the most decorated defenders in American history, has earned 74 caps with the U.S. Men's National Team and is expected to start in today's World Cup Qualifier against Panama at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. at 6:00 p.m. MT, live on ESPN2.
"It's a huge honor to receive this award and is obviously not possible without my teammates and coaches," Pope said. "Even though it's an individual honor, it never means more than the true goal of our team winning an MLS Cup."
"We knew what you were getting when we acquired Eddie Pope in the trade with the MetroStars," Ellinger said. "When he is on the field you feel his presence and when he's not you feel the void. His experience and soccer ability is an important part of the team, and everything about Eddie is all things we need on the field from his leadership to his experience."
Brian Kamler - RSL 2005 U.S. Soccer Foundation Humanitarian of the Year
Kamler enters the final regular-season game of his professional career for RSL tonight before hanging up his cleats to assume his duties as the team's Director of Soccer Development. The 10-year MLS veteran, one of just 15 league-wide, has played 27 games for RSL this year, with 23 starts as one of Coach Ellinger's utility men, assuming various roles in the defense and the midfield. Kamler was honored the New England Revolution Humanitarian of the Year for the 2002, 2003 and 2004. Off the field, Kamler has joined with The Bringhurst Group to develop the "Kam's Kauses" foundation to give back to the Utah community. Kamler and his wife, Suzanne, set up a booth in Carnival Real, the interactive soccer area open before every RSL home game, to help raise funds for local charities and non-profits. The following charities have benefited from "Kam's Kauses": United Way of Salt Lake,Big Brothers Big Sisters, Utah Down Syndrome Foundation, The Road Home, National Disaster Relief (Hurricane Katrina), Utah Youth Soccer Association Scholarship Program, Special Olympics, Utah Food Bank, Humane Society, Boy and Girl Scouts, Huntsman Cancer Institute, and Primary Children's Hospital.
"It's somewhat sad knowing that he is finishing his MLS career tonight, but also exciting to see where he is heading within the organization," Ellinger said. "He's contributed to the team from day, playing several different positions from the midfield to goalkeeper. It is not only what he does on the field, but the things he does off the field that makes him the classy individual he is."
"I think the award really goes to the fans of Real Salt Lake who have raised considerable funds for people around Utah and the hurricane victims in the Gulf," Kamler said. "I'd like to thank my wife, Suzanne, for her help in manning the booth and running the program. The fans have made us feel a part of the community and we feel they are very special people. We are glad to be a part of such a wonderful community."