NEW YORK – The fans have spoken: The top latino player of the 2012 MLS season is Houston Dynamo Designated Player Oscar Boniek García.
The Honduran midfielder won 55.59 percent of the total votes in the final round of FutbolMLS.com’s third annual Latino del Año competition to beat out countryman Roger Espinoza (Sporting Kansas City), who captured 44.41 percent of the ballots.
Boniek García dominated each phase of the FIFA-style tournament format. He emerged from the group stage with 52.59 percent of votes against stiff competition that included Argentinean Mauro Rosales (Seattle Sounders FC), Costa Rican striker Jairo Arrieta (Columbus Crew) and Colombian midfielder Diego Chará (Portland Timbers).
In the Round of 16, Boniek García swept by popular Colombian striker Fredy Montero (Seattle Sounders) with 76.62 percent of the votes, earning the highest total percentage of any player in the round.
Beginning with the quarterfinals, Boniek García knocked off three consecutive Hondurans to claim the 2012 title. First he crushed Marvin Chávez (San Jose Earthquakes) with 79.09 percent of the votes in the quarters. Fellow Honduran national teamer and San Jose defender Víctor Bernárdez was his next victim after Boniek amassed 71.36 percent of the ballots in the semis.
The Latino del Año honor caps an unbelievable rise for Boniek García, who only arrived in Houston halfway through the season, making his official debut on June 30. He sealed a starting spot from that first match onward and quickly became one of the team's on-field leaders as Houston advanced all the way to MLS Cup.
Before he was acquired from Honduran side Olimpia, the Dynamo had compiled a 5-5-5 record in regular season play. Houston then proceeded to go on a 11-5-7 run with Boniek García, who scored five goals and collected six assists.
He started all six matches in the MLS Cup playoffs, as Houston finished runners-up to the LA Galaxy with Boniek García playing the full 90 minutes. Many of his team's most dangerous scoring chances involved the midfielder.
Boniek García succeeds Mexican icon Omar Bravo (2011) and Seattle's Montero (2010) as Latino del Año winners.
FINAL 2012 LATINO DEL AÑO RESULTS
Final: Boniek vs. Espinoza
1 – BONIEK GARCÍA (HOU): 55,59%
2 – Roger Espinoza (SKC): 44,1%