NEW YORK – Major League Soccer announced the MLS Rookie of the Year on Tuesday, adding Sporting Kansas City forward C.J. Sapong to an impressive list of previous award winners.
Sapong scored five goals and dished out five assists for Kansas City in 2011, leading all rookies in points, and appeared in all 34 regular-season matches for manager Peter Vermes, the only Sporting player to do so. He also scored in the club’s Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Colorado Rapids.
D.C. United’s Perry Kitchen finished second in the voting followed by Michael Farfan (Philadelphia Union), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers) and Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo). Sapong garnered more than 30 percent of the votes collected from media, MLS players and MLS club management to win the award by a wide margin.
Kansas City selected the 22-year-old striker with the 10th pick in the first round of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft out of James Madison University, where he spent four years spearheading the Dukes’ attack and was the Colonial Athletic Association player of the year in 2010.
Sapong is the first Kansas City player to win the award following a season in which he made 22 starts and trailed only midfielder Graham Zusi in assists. He also scored three goals in two US Open Cup qualifiers.
Sporting began the 2011 season with 10 consecutive road games, leaving them in last place, but turned the season around to finish the regular season atop the Eastern Conference. They won all five games in which Sapong found the back of the net.
The forward played mostly center forward and on the left wing in Vermes’ 4-3-3 formation, splitting time with Teal Bunbury and Omar Bravo and eliciting calls in some quarters for Jurgen Klinsmann to take a look at the young striker.