November 9, 2017 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City defender Ike Opara was voted the 2017 MLS Defender of the Year, Major League Soccer announced on Thursday.
"I am truly honored to be named 2017 MLS Defender of the Year," Opara said. "Although this is an individual award, it wouldn't have been possible without the unwavering support from many people over the years. That includes team owners, staff, teammates, fans, doctors, friends and family.
"I want to thank everyone who has made even the smallest investment in me as a player and a person. Words cannot describe my appreciation. I'm already looking forward to 2018 and hopefully bringing more trophies to Kansas City."
In his fifth season with Sporting KC, Opara anchored a miserly defense that conceded just 29 goals during the 2017 regular season, eight fewer than any other team. Opara set MLS career-highs with 30 starts and 2,700 minutes played, contributed to 11 shutouts and helped Sporting KC reach the MLS Cup Playoffs for the seventh straight year.
"Ever since Ike joined our club in 2013, we always believed he had this level of play in him," Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes said. "He was unfortunate to suffer season-ending injuries in 2014 and 2015, so this was the first season he played on a regular basis in our lineup. That's no doubt one of the reasons why our team had success this year.
"Ike has taken an extremely professional approach throughout the year, maintaining a high level of fitness and taking great care of his body physically and nutritionally. This award says a lot about our team defended in 2017, and Ike was a big piece of that."
Sporting KC boasted a 0.7 7 goals against average and a 12-6-12 record in the 30 regular-season matches Opara played in 2017. The defender also scored three goals, including spectacular game-winners against Minnesota United FC on June 3 and LA Galaxy on June 24. His stunning bicycle kick in the victory over LA is an AT&T 2017 MLS Goal of the Year nominee .