Ike Opara named MLS Defender of the Year

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The Sporting KC center back posted a career year in 2017, setting a career high in starts and minutes while anchoring the league's top defense

Sporting Kansas City defender Ike Opara has been named the 2017 Major Leage Soccer Defender of the Year, the league announced Thursday. 

The 28-year-old made 30 starts for Sporting KC in 2017, anchoring a defense that conceded a league-low 29 goals on the season. 

After battling injuries for much of his career, Opara finally stayed healthy in 2017, setting career highs in games played (30), games started (30) and minutes played (2,700). 

Opara led Sporting KC's back line in interceptions (2.7 per game) and was second in clearances (3.8 per game). He also posted the best passing number of his career, 86.1 percent, being narrowly edged out for best on the team by Graham Zusi.

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“I am truly honored to be named 2017 MLS Defender of the Year,” Opara said in a club release. “Although this is an individual award, it wouldn't have been possible without the unwavering support from many people over the years. That includes team owners, staff, teammates, fans, doctors, friends and family.

The award was voted on by MLS club technical staff, media, and MLS players. 

Justin Morrow of Toronto FC finished second in the total voting, followed by Vancouver's Kendall Waston. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Matt Besler and Joevin Jones round out the top six. 

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