Sporting Kansas City's Ike Opara wins 2017 MLS Defender of the Year award

Sporting Kansas City defender Ike Opara has been named the 2017 MLS Defender of the Year, the league announced Thursday.

Opara had a breakout year leading a Sporting defense that conceded a league-low 29 goals, the fewest allowed in a single MLS season since 2012. He also helped SKC capture their fourth Lamar Hunt US Open Cup title, tied for the most of any MLS team in the tournament’s history.

Sporting were 12-6-12 with the 28-year-old Opara in the lineup, giving up 23 goals in his 30 appearances (0.77 GPG). He was also on the field for all 11 of Sporting's clean sheets. Without him, SKC compiled a 0-3-1 record and conceded six goals in four matches.

Opara shook off consecutive injury-riddled seasons to register career highs in games played (30), games started (30) and minutes played (2,700) in the 2017 campaign. He also equaled a career high with three league goals, tying him for second among MLS defenders. And he was a key reason why SKC were unbeaten in 24 consecutive league home matches from June 2016 to September of 2017.

Since Opara arrived at the club, SKC have qualified for five consecutive postseasons. They finished fifth in the Western Conference this year before losing 1-0 in extra time to the Houston Dynamo in the Knockout Round of the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.

The 2017 US Open Cup victory is Opara’s third major trophy with Sporting after winning the 2013 MLS Cup in his first season with SKC followed by the 2015 Open Cup. He started all five matches in U.S. Open Cup play this season, helping Sporting post shutouts in the first three game and scoring twice during the tournament.

Taken by San Jose with the No. 3 overall selection in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, the Generation adidas signing was twice named ACC Defensive Player of the Year while at Wake Forest University.

The award was voted on by MLS club technical staff, media, and MLS players. Below is a breakdown of the voting results:

Defender of the Year Player Vote % Media Vote % Club Vote % Average %
Ike Opara (SKC) 31.42% 39.88% 14.29% 28.53%
Justin Morrow (TOR) 13.79% 15.77% 11.90% 13.82%
Kendall Waston (VAN) 10.73% 9.23% 15.48% 11.81%
Leandro González Pírez (ATL) 5.36% 10.71% 16.67% 10.91%
Matt Besler (SKC) 2.68% 7.44% 4.76% 4.96%
Joevin Jones (SEA) 2.68% 1.19% 9.52% 4.46%

MLS Defender of the Year Winners:

  • 2017: Ike Opara – Sporting Kansas City
  • 2016: Matt Hedges – FC Dallas
  • 2015: Laurent Ciman – Montreal Impact
  • 2014: Chad Marshall – Seattle Sounders FC
  • 2013: Jose Goncalves – New England Revolution
  • 2012: Matt Besler – Sporting Kansas City
  • 2011: Omar Gonzalez – LA Galaxy
  • 2010: Jamison Olave – Real Salt Lake
  • 2009: Chad Marshall – Columbus Crew
  • 2008: Chad Marshall – Columbus Crew
  • 2007: Michael Parkhurst – New England Revolution
  • 2006: Bobby Boswell – D.C. United
  • 2005: Jimmy Conrad – Kansas City Wizards
  • 2004: Robin Fraser – Columbus Crew
  • 2003: Carlos Bocanegra – Chicago Fire
  • 2002: Carlos Bocanegra – Chicago Fire
  • 2001: Jeff Agoos – San Jose Earthquakes
  • 2000: Peter Vermes – Kansas City Wizards
  • 1999: Robin Fraser – Los Angeles Galaxy
  • 1998: Lubos Kubik – Chicago Fire
  • 1997: Eddie Pope – D.C. United
  • 1996: John Doyle – San Jose Earthquakes

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