Melia, Opara named to 2017 MLS Best XI

Tim Melia

Ike Opara

Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia and defender Ike Opara were named to the 2017 MLS Best XI for their outstanding performances during the regular season, Major League Soccer announced.

Melia and Opara earned Best XI honors for the first time in their careers after being voted the best players at their positions earlier this month.

Opara was tabbed the MLS Defender of the Year on Nov. 9, while Melia landed Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year accolades on Nov. 16. The duo played a leading role throughout the 2017 campaign as Sporting KC won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and advanced to the MLS Cup Playoffs for a seventh straight year.

“To be among the names on the Best XI is truly special,” Melia said. “It’s an honor to be selected the best at your position from peers you compete against throughout the season. While these awards mean a lot, my top priority is to win an MLS Cup with Sporting KC, and I’m excited to work toward that goal in 2018.”

“This is an honor that could have gone to anyone on our backline this season, and I’m grateful to be recognized by MLS,” Opara said. “It’s an accomplishment that I will cherish, and I’m already looking forward to next season and challenging for more trophies as a team.”

Melia, 31, reached MLS career-highs in wins (12), shutouts (10), saves (91), starts (31) and minutes (2,759) in his third season at Sporting KC. Among goalkeepers with at least 15 regular-season appearances, he led MLS with a 0.78 goals against average, 78.4 save percentage and 69.2 percent passing accuracy while ranking second with 10 shutouts.

An eight-year MLS veteran, Melia saved three penalty kicks in 2017 – one shy of the single-season league record – and was nominated for MLS Save of the Year with a remarkable finger-tip save in a 1-0 win at the Portland Timbers on April 15. He posted an additional three shutouts in Open Cup competition, lifting the trophy for the second time in three years. He finished 2017 with a 16-7-12 record in all competitions, notching a 0.72 goals against average and 13 clean sheets.

Opara, 28, anchored a stingy defense that allowed 29 goals during the regular season, eight fewer than any other team. In his fifth season with Sporting KC and his eighth in MLS, Opara set career-highs with 30 starts and 2,700 minutes played while contributing to 11 shutouts. Among MLS defenders, he ranked second in recoveries (193) and seventh in interceptions (69).

Sporting KC boasted a 0.77 goals against average and a 12-6-12 record in the 30 regular-season matches Opara played. He also added three goals, including a stunning bicycle kick in a 2-1 victory at the LA Galaxy on June 24 that was nominated for AT&T MLS Goal of the Year. Additionally, Opara started all five matches in Sporting KC’s run to the Open Cup title, scoring two game-winning goals and contributing to three clean sheets. He ended the year with a career-high 36 appearances in all competitions after missing most of 2014 and 2015 with season-ending injuries.

Melia and Opara are the fourth and fifth players on the current Sporting KC roster to receive Best XI honors. Defenders Matt Besler and Graham Zusi were back-to-back selections in 2012 and 2013, while midfielder Benny Feilhaber was a 2015 Best XI selection.

Current MLS players, club technical staffs and media members voted on the 2017 Best XI, resulting in a 3-3-4 formation with one goalkeeper, three defenders, three midfielders and four forwards.

Youth home at 63rd and Leavenworth Road receives approval

A controversial youth home at 63rd and Leavenworth Road received approval after a lengthy Unified Government Commission discussion on Thursday night.

Commissioners voted 10-0 to approve the recommendation of the Planning Commission for Avery’s Village home for 50 youth for a two-year special use permit. The home is in the former Medicalodge nursing home building.

The approval came after another motion was defeated that would have limited the youth home to a shorter permit.

The permit had been sent back to the Planning Commission earlier in order that those for and against it could come to an agreement; however, the two sides were still apart.

The Planning Commission put stipulations on the project, including that it would be for children in need of care and not juvenile delinquents. The planning staff also will review it when it comes back for renewal in two years, to make sure it does not look like a hangout for kids, according to planning staff.

Originally, the application for the permit proposed 70 children at the location, but it was lowered to 50 at earlier meetings. UG commissioners proposed lowering it to 35; however, that idea did not advance. Other commissioners and the mayor questioned whether the facility’s business plan would work with fewer children or a shorter time period for the permit.

The applicant, Fred Avery, told the commission he is planning to open the facility in about three months, possibly February.

Several residents in the area appeared in opposition to the youth home, with several other residents appearing in favor of it.

Deniese Davis, treasurer of the Leavenworth Road Association, told the commission that she was not protesting the Avery family, and it wasn’t a “not in my backyard” position.

“It’s always been about location site, and the facility not being a safe place for kids on the corner of state Highway 5, and no green space,” Davis said. She did not hold out much hope for the state of Kansas to regulate the home, and said they would have to count on the UG Commission. She added she would probably be for the youth home had it been in another location.

According to the applicant, they have bought a home next door on the east side, and can use that yard as green space for the youth.

Lou Braswell, executive director of the Leavenworth Road Association, said the association would work with Avery’s Village if the permit passed. They only opposed its location, not the persons proposing the project, she said.

Three persons who live at a shelter in Kansas City, Kansas, also spoke to the commission in favor of the youth home.

“I have never seen homelessness like I’ve seen it here,” one of the residents of the shelter told the commission. Homelessness is particularly hard on children, the shelter residents said. There are currently a number of homeless youth in the community, they said.

According to the UG agenda, Kathleen Litke retracted her opposition to the special use permit. She had signed a petition against it, and then changed her mind and stated she was in favor of it. The protest petition was ruled invalid.

A nearby resident, Litke said she had discovered there would be children in need of care at the facility, not juvenile delinquents. Children from Wyandotte County who have nowhere to go are often shipped off to Wichita or other cities, she said, and some families cannot afford to travel there to see them.

For more information about this lengthy meeting, visit the UG YouTube page at, under the 7 p.m. Nov. 30 meeting.

Yoder defends GOP tax cut bill, Moran signals support ahead of vote

by Jim McLean, Kansas News Service

Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder is offering a vigorous defense of the Republican tax cut bill as the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on its version of the controversial measure.

In a lengthy news release posted Thursday that Yoder touted as separating myth from fact, the 3rd District representative said the bill does not favor wealthy taxpayers over middle-class families, as Democrats and other critics claim.

Noting that most taxpayers do not itemize, Yoder said critics are making too much of proposals to reduce or eliminate some deductions to offset the cost of a sharp reduction in the corporate tax.

In particular, he argues that middle-class families, which he defines as those making the median income of $59,000, would not be adversely affected by the House proposal to cap the itemized deduction for state and local taxes at $10,000 or the Senate plan to eliminate it.

“The middle class is by and large not benefitting from the state and local tax deduction,” Yoder said in the release, noting that most middle-income taxpayers do not claim itemized deductions.

“We significantly lower the tax burden for middle class and low-income Americans by doubling the size of the standard deduction — making the first $24,000 in a family’s income and the first $12,000 of an individual’s income tax-free,” he said, noting that the measure also preserves tax credits that generally help low-income families.

‘Toward an economic cliff’

But critics of the bill insist that wealthy Americans will benefit the most, noting that reductions for individuals would be temporary while corporate tax cuts would be permanent.

“The (Republican) party is now trying to pass a scam that throws a few crumbs to the middle class (temporarily — millions of middle-class Americans will soon see a tax hike if the bill is enacted) while heaping benefits on the super-rich, multiplying the national debt and endangering the American economy,” historian Robert McElvaine wrote in the Washington Post.

McElvaine, the author of a book on the Great Depression, sees echoes of the policies that precipitated the 1929 crash in the current GOP tax cut bill.

“Nine decades later, Republicans are rushing to do it again — and they are sprinting toward an economic cliff,” McElvaine wrote while warning of “catastrophic” results.

Critics of the bill say reducing the tax rate on “pass-through” business income is another way it benefits the wealthy by taxing them at a lower rate than many middle-class Americans. And they often point to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s failed tax-cutting experiment as evidence that such “trickle down” policies don’t work.

Different than Kansas plan

Yoder said it’s unfair to compare the GOP tax bill to the Brownback plan, which state lawmakers largely repealed last session.

For one thing, he said the federal bill would only reduce taxes on pass-through business income, not exempt it as Brownback’s plan did.

“Our plan reduces the federal rate to 25 percent, which will allow American small businesses to compete at a level similar to that of other nations around the world without irresponsibly eliminating taxes all together,” he said in the release.

Yoder’s defense of the tax bill Thursday comes as the U.S. Senate is nearing a vote on its version.

Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts supports the measure. But the state’s other GOP senator, Jerry Moran, has expressed concerns about its projected $1.5 billion impact on the federal budget deficit and provisions that would tax the university tuition waivers of graduate teaching assistants and repeal the Obamacare requirement that Americans purchase health coverage.

In a statement on his website, Moran said he is still “discussing ways to improve” the bill but is likely to vote for it regardless of the outcome of those discussions.

“I expect to support a tax package that grows the economy, protects taxpayers, creates good-paying jobs and helps Americans keep more of their hard-earned money,” Moran said.

Jim McLean is managing director of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to

See more at