Jimmy Nielsen, Graham Zusi named Sporting KC 2012 co-MVPs

Jamie Squire

Kei Kamara, and Matt Besler are also named to club's end-of-year awards.

For the second straight year Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was named his team's Most Valuable Player. However, this year Nielsen has company, as both he and midfielder Graham Zusi were named co-MVPs for the 2012 season.

Nielsen, Kansas City's team captain, fell just short of setting Major League Soccer's all-time regular season clean sheet record, tallying 15. He finishes the 2012 campaign tied with another fellow Kansas City goalkeeper for the all-time mark, Tony Meola, who recorded 15 clean sheets in 2000, the same year Kansas City won both the Supporters' Shield, and the MLS Cup title.

Nielsen's co-MVP, Graham Zusi, finished the 2012 regular season having scored five goals, and having notched a league-leading 15 assists.

The goal total is the same number that Zusi finished with in 2011, but his assists increased dramatically in 2012 compared to the seven he tallied last season.

2012 was a break-out year for the 26 year-old midfielder, as Zusi also logged major minutes playing for the United States National Team, and appears to have claimed a permanent spot in USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's rotation.

Forward Kei Kamara was named Sporting Kansas City's Offensive Player of the Year. The Sierre Leone international scored 11 goals, and finished with eight assists in 2012. Kamara added two of those assists Wednesday night, as he was instrumental in both of Sporting KC's goals in their 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union at Livestrong Sporting Park.

Kamara was also named Sporting Kansas City's Humanitarian of the Year. Kamara started the HeartShapedHands Foundation this year, and was also heavily involved with Schools for Salone, which provides scholarships for students in Sierra Leone.

Center back Matt Besler was named the club's 2012 Defensive Player of the Year. The 25 year-old was the heart and soul of Sporting KC's back line this season, featuring in 31 regular season matches, and logging 2,769 minutes.

Kansas City's defense has widely been considered the best in MLS in 2012, having only conceded 27 goals. That is five better than the next closest team, the Seattle Sounders, who have conceded 32 and still have the LA Galaxy remaining on their regular season schedule.

Paul Dean was awarded the 2012 Bob Gansler Award, given to the most outstanding academy player. Dean, a defender, currently plays for the Sporting KC Academy under 18's.

Awards were voted on by Sporting KC players, coaches, and members of the media.

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