Melia, Opara named finalists for MLS End of Year Awards

Tim Melia

Ike Opara

Two Sporting Kansas City players were named finalists for 2017 MLS awards on Tuesday.

Tim Melia is a finalist for Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year, while center back Ike Opara is a finalist for Defender of the Year.

Major League Soccer has announced the three finalists for each of the 2017 End of Year Awards, honoring the league’s top performers during the 2017 regular season. The finalists earned the most votes in polling of three voting groups: current MLS players, MLS club staff and media members who consistently covered the league in 2017.

The MLS Defender of the Year will be announced on Thursday, Nov. 9, while the Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year will be named on Thursday, Nov. 16.

Melia, 31, enjoyed his strongest season as a professional in 2017, leading MLS with a 0.78 goals against average and 78.4 save percentage among goalkeepers with at least 15 appearances.

The eight-year MLS veteran ranked second with 10 shutouts while also saving three penalty kicks, one shy of the single-season league record. Among goalkeepers with at least 30 games played in a single season, Melia’s 0.78 goals against average is the lowest in league history.

In his third year with Sporting KC, Melia boasted a 16-7-12 record as a starter in all competitions with a 0.76 goals against average. He finished the year with 13 clean sheets, including three in Sporting KC’s run to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title.
Melia also made two saves in a penalty shootout victory over the San Jose Earthquakes in the Open Cup semifinals on Aug. 9.

Melia is in contention to become the third Kansas City player to be named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, following Tony Meola in 2000 and Jimmy Nielsen in 2012.

Like Melia, Opara pieced together a career year throughout 2017 while anchoring a stingy Sporting KC defense. He set or equaled regular-season career-highs in starts (30), minutes (2,700) and goals (three) while posting a 12-6-12 record as a starter and contributing to 11 shutouts.

As a team, Sporting KC finished the 2017 regular season with 29 goals conceded and a 0.85 goals against average, the fifth-lowest mark in league history.

In all competitions, Opara tallied five goals – including two en route to Sporting KC’s Open Cup championship – and helped the club keep 14 clean sheets. Sporting KC allowed just 0.71 goals per game in the 36 matches Opara played.

An eight-year MLS veteran and a member of Sporting KC since 2013, Opara is in contention to become the fourth Kansas City player to receive MLS Defender of the Year honors, following Peter Vermes (2000), Jimmy Conrad (2005) and Matt Besler (2012).

Melia and Opara are also nominees for MLS Save of the Year and Goal of the Year.

Melia’s fingertip stop to deny Darlington Nagbe in a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers on April 15 is one of 16 Save of the Year finalists, while Opara’s stunning bicycle kick in a 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy on June 24 is one of 16 Goal of the Year finalists. Voting for Save of the Year and Goal of the Year is open at until Nov. 14.

– Story from Sporting KC

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