(Nov. 19, 2020) — Sporting Kansas City announced today the winners of the 2020 Sporting Club Awards presented by Audi, recognizing outstanding performances over the course of the 2020 season. Votes from supporters determined the following award winners:
- Most Valuable Player presented by Audi: Johnny Russell
- Offensive Player of the Year presented by Ivy Investments: Alan Pulido
- Defensive Player of the Year presented by Compass Minerals: Roberto Puncec
- Newcomer of the Year presented by Blue KC: Gadi Kinda
- Goal of the Year presented by T-Mobile: Erik Hurtado
Sporting Kansas City also selected award winners in the following categories:
- Golden Boot presented by Technology Group Solutions: Gadi Kinda, Alan Pulido and Johnny Russell
- Neal and Jeanne Patterson Humanitarian of the Year: Khiry Shelton
- Sporting KC II Most Valuable Player presented by Ivy Investments: Wilson Harris
- Bob Gansler Academy Player of the Year presented by Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center: Josh Chong
- Sporting Club Network Member of the Year presented by Price Chopper: Sporting Iowa
Johnny Russell, who was named Sporting’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019, has earned Most Valuable Player honors to punctuate an excellent third season in Kansas City. The 30-year-old forward was tied for the team lead with six goals in the regular season — including two game-winners — and placed second with four assists. The only Sporting player to appear in all 23 competitive matches this season, Russell also led the side with 31 chances created and 42 dribbles completed. The Scottish international’s 48 combined goals (25) and assists (23) since the start of his Sporting tenure in 2018 rank ninth in MLS.
Alan Pulido, 29, has landed Offensive Player of the Year accolades as one of the most electrifying forwards in MLS. Arriving on a club-record transfer fee from Chivas de Guadalajara last December, the Mexican amassed seven goals and five assists in all competitions and became the first Kansas City player since 2005 to lead the club in both goals and assists. Pulido had a remarkable impact on Sporting’s success over the course of the 2020 campaign, as Manager Peter Vermes’ side went 8-2-1 and averaged 2.27 goals in the 11 regular season matches he started. The versatile attacker was named one of three MLS Newcomer of the Year finalists earlier this month.
Roberto Puncec, 29, signed for Sporting a week before Pulido in late 2019 and also enjoyed a brilliant first MLS campaign. The Croatian center back appeared in all but one of Sporting’s 21 regular season matches, starting 18, and went the full 90 minutes in each of the club’s seven shutout efforts. Puncec also finished with team-highs in passes (910), successful passes (793), interceptions (25), clearances (59) and blocks (11). He added an assist on the attacking end 17 minutes into his MLS debut, setting up Pulido’s goal in a season-opening win at Vancouver Whitecaps Fc on Feb. 29.
As the club’s Newcomer of the Year, Gadi Kinda recorded six goals and four assists as a dynamic midfielder. The 26-year-old Israeli placed sixth among MLS newcomers with 10 combined goals and assists while also creating 26 scoring chances, second-most on the team behind Russell. Kinda started 16 of 18 regular season appearances and was particularly effective in the early and latter stages of the campaign. He was the only MLS player to receive Team of the Week honors in Week 1 and 2 before notching two goals and two assists across his final three matches.
With six goals apiece in the regular season, Kinda, Pulido and Russell will share the Golden Boot award as Sporting’s top scorers.
Forward Erik Hurtado has claimed Goal of the Year recognition for his stunning volley in a pivotal home victory over Nashville SC on Oct. 11. With the game tied at 1-1 in the 79th minute, Hurtado latched onto Amadou Dia’s high-arching long ball and smashed a first-time strike into the opposite corner of the net for one of the greatest goals in club history. His masterclass was one of 16 finalists for 2020 MLS Goal of the Year and one of five goals Hurtado has scored this season. The 30-year-old forward leads MLS this year with 1.2 goals per 90 minutes played.
Forward Khiry Shelton has been named the Neal and Jeanne Patterson Humanitarian of the Year after embracing a major role in the club’s philanthropic initiatives throughout 2020, advocating for social justice while also supporting local youths through a variety of community programs. At the forefront, Shelton has led Sporting’s efforts tied to the Black Lives Matter movement, joining the Black Players for Change coalition to help establish programs and policies that address systemic racism and aid the Black community in attaining both health equality and economic opportunity. He has also been an active volunteer for The Victory Project, a foundation launched by Sporting that supports children affected by cancer and all of life’s challenges. In addition to providing special surprise and delight deliveries to Victory Project honorees on matchdays, Shelton has made care kit deliveries to families at Children’s Mercy Hospital and participated in virtual meet and greets with inpatients at the facility.
Sporting Kansas City forward Wilson Harris was named the Sporting Kansas City II Most Valuable Player after a standout 2020 campaign that culminated with USL Championship Young Player of the Year honors. At 20 years old, the forward became the youngest player in USL Championship history to eclipse 20 career goals by striking eight times in an abbreviated 16-game season. At the conclusion of the USL Championship season, Harris signed a Homegrown Player contract with Sporting’s first team.
Josh Chong has received Bob Gansler Academy Player of the Year accolades as one of the Sporting KC Academy’s standout performers. Born in South Korea and raised in Virginia, the 19-year-old joined the Sporting KC Academy for the 2015-16 season and has since represented the club at the U-14 through U-19 levels. He helped lead the Sporting KC U-19s to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy quarterfinals last year and has also spent significant time with Sporting KC II, signing amateur Academy contracts for the 2019 and 2020 USL Championship campaigns.
Sporting Iowa was selected as the Sporting Club Network Member of the Year, producing five Iowa State Cup champions and two Iowa Presidents Cup champions this fall. It was also a member of the newly launched Sporting Development League and the only club in the state of Iowa to be accepted into the ECNL Girls Regional League. Additionally, Sporting Iowa grew its player pool by expanding the club’s age groups from U15-U19 to U11-U-19.