Ike Opara overcomes injury-riddled career to be named MLS Defender of the Year

Sporting Kansas City defender Ike Opara, one of the keys to MLS's best defense in 2017, has been named the MLS Defender of the Year.

Opara finished with more than twice the support of the second-place finisher, Toronto FC's Justin Morrow. Opara's teammate, Matt Besler, was fifth in voting.

MLS Defender of the Year:
28.53% Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City)
13.82% Justin Morrow (Toronto FC)
11.81% Kendall Waston (Vancouver)
10.91% Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (Atlanta United)
4.96% Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City)
4.46% Joevin Jones (Seattle)

Only two years ago, Opara thought of retiring after suffering a ruptured Achilles' tendon that limited him to six games. In 2014, he played only three games after suffering a severe ankle injury. In his first six MLS seasons with San Jose and Sporting KC, he never played more than 18 games.

With Opara in the lineup, Sporting was 12-6-12 in 2017, giving up 23 goals in his 30 games played, an average of 0.77 goals allowed per game. In the four matches without Opara in the lineup, SKC was 0-3-1 record. All 11 shutouts this season came with Opara in the starting lineup.
Opara registered career highs in games played (30), games started (30) and minutes played (2,700). Opara also equaled a career high with three goals in regular-season play, tied for the second most goals by a defender in MLS this season.

Besides Besler, Jimmy Conrad and current Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes have been named MLS Defender of the Year.

MLS Defenders of the Year:
2017: Ike Opara – Sporting Kansas City
2016: Matt Hedges – FC Dallas
2015: Laurent Ciman – Montreal Impact
2014: Chad Marshall – Seattle Sounders
2013: Jose Goncalves – New England Revolution
2012: Matt Besler – Sporting Kansas City
2011: Omar Gonzalez – LA Galaxy
2010: Jamison Olave – Real Salt Lake
2009: Chad Marshall – Columbus Crew
2008: Chad Marshall – Columbus Crew
2007: Michael Parkhurst – New England Revolution
2006: Bobby Boswell – D.C. United
2005: Jimmy Conrad – Kansas City Wizards
2004: Robin Fraser – Columbus Crew
2003: Carlos Bocanegra – Chicago Fire
2002: Carlos Bocanegra – Chicago Fire
2001: Jeff Agoos – San Jose Earthquakes
2000: Peter Vermes – Kansas City Wizards
1999: Robin Fraser – Los Angeles Galaxy
1998: Lubos Kubik – Chicago Fire
1997: Eddie Pope – D.C. United
1996: John Doyle – San Jose Earthquakes

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