Rapids Announce Winners of the Club's 9 Year-End Player Awards

DENVER (ColoradoRapids.com) – The Colorado Rapids announced the team’s 2006 yearly Team Award winners at halftime of Saturday night's playoff match vs. FC Dallas.

The Rapids award winners were selected based on players' performances over the course of the entire season as voted on by members of the local Colorado media.

Colorado Rapids 2006 Team Award Winners:

RAPIDS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD: #15 Jacob Peterson
This award goes to the player who has made the biggest impact to the team in his rookie season. Jacob Peterson was that player this year for the Rapids. He posted an impressive 4 goals and 3 assists in the regular season placing him in 4th on the team in both categories. Establishing himself into the first team was no problem this season for the talented first-year player; he started 17 matches and appeared in 28 logging 1548 total minutes. His highlight of 2006 was scoring the Rapids' final goal of the regular season at Houston the tying goal that propelled Colorado into the playoffs for their 5th consecutive year.

RAPIDS RESERVE TEAM MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: #27 Stephen Keel
In its second year this award goes to the most invaluable player on the Rapids Reserve team each season. Defender Stephen Keel was the Iron Man for the Rapids Reserve squad in 2006 coordinating the Rapids' defense and leading them all the way to the championship title. He led all players on the Reserve team in minutes played with 1080 playing every minute of every game the only player to do so. He also recorded 2 goals on the season from his defensive position for the Rapids Reserves on their way to winning the championship in its second year.

RAPIDS PLAYMAKER OF THE YEAR: #11 Terry Cooke
This award goes to the Rapids player who has been most instrumental in developing the Rapids attack all year and creating scoring opportunities for the team. Midfielder Terry Cooke won this award for his ability to make things happen in the Rapids' attack and for his reputation as the best assist man in the league. He recorded 12 assists on the season the best in MLS despite only playing in 23 games due to an injury he sustained midway through the season. And even though that number is very impressive it doesn't do justice to the numerous attacking options he set up and created through the Rapids' midfield all year long.

RAPIDS MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: #4 Dan Gargan
This award goes to the Rapids player who has shown the most marked improvement over the course of the season. Gargan who joined the Rapids in 2005 had been developing as a young player over the course of last season. However this season he really nailed down his place in the starting lineup as he made 15 starts and appeared in 22 games in 2006 for the Rapids logging 1482 minutes and continuing to earn the nod from Fernando Clavijo as a starter in the Rapids' defensive line thanks to his grit and determination on the pitch.

RAPIDS DEFENDER OF THE YEAR AWARD: #18 Aitor Karanka
This award goes to the Rapids player who shows the most steadfast defensive skills over the course of the year. Since joining the team in 2006 Karanka has brought a superior international pedigree to the Rapids' back line. The former Real Madrid superstar stepped up to fill the defensive void left after the departure of central defender Nat Borchers and became this year the anchor of the Rapids' new-look defense using his vast experience to help break down opposing teams' attacks all year. Karanka posted 27 starts in 27 games played and logged more minutes played (2414) and more shots (11) than any defender this season.

U.S. SOCCER FOUNDATION RAPIDS HUMANITARIAN OF THE YEAR AWARD: #24 Bouna Coundoul
This award goes each year to the Rapids player that is the most active in our Colorado community. This year Coundoul led the team in community appearances. He ran several soccer-skills seminars for different groups and also for kids all over the state as part of the Rapids’ "Play Like a Pro" soccer clinic series. His exuberance and dedication to connecting with youngsters shone through this year when he made appearances visiting sick kids at Children’s Hospital and at the several presentations he personally led at school assemblies at various elementary schools in the spring to teach kids about the importance of staying healthy and pursuing an education. Through all of these events Coundoul led the way amongst his teammates in giving back to our local community all year long.

BUDWEISER RAPIDS GOLDEN BOOT AWARD: Tie: #20 Nicolas Hernandez and #5 Kyle Beckerman
The Budweiser Rapids Golden Boot Award goes to the player who over the course of the regular season has scored the most goals for the Rapids. This year saw a tie for the most number of goals scored in regular season play; Nicolas Hernandez and Kyle Beckerman both tied for the team lead in goals this year with 7 apiece. Both players had impressive amd memorable goals scored over the course of the 2006 season and this year both of them share this award as co-leaders of the Rapids' offensive firepower.

RAPIDS LEADERSHIP AWARD: #5 Kyle Beckerman
This award goes to the Rapids player each year who most exemplifies the true spirit of the Colorado Rapids franchise game in and game out. Kyle Beckerman had a fantastic year for the Rapids this season his best to date. He was heavily depended upon by Fernando Clavijo in the midfield in 2006 and really came into his own as the Rapids' tireless workhorse giving his all on the field for all but game. Beckerman finished for the team lead in minutes played playing every single minute of the 31 games he appeared in missing only 1 match due to yellow card accumulation. With his fiery dedication to the club this year Kyle Beckerman shone as an example to his teammates by leaving it all on the field every game in 2006.

HONDA RAPIDS MOST VALUABLE PLAYER AWARD: #20 Nicolas Hernandez
The Honda Rapids Most Valuable Player Award goes to the player who most exemplifies reliability dependability and exceptional performance and who has been most indispensable to the Rapids over the course of the season. Niko Hernandez wins this award this year for his indispensability to the squad. Niko had a breakout year in his first season for the Rapids recording 7 goals (tied for 1st on the team) and 6 assists (2nd on the team) on the season. He made 29 starts out of 30 appearances and logged 2524 minutes (2nd on the team) and instantly became a fan favorite this year for his dangerous attacking ability and dangerous attacking ability on the Rapids' front line.

All of the 2006 Rapids Player Award Winners received a commemorative trophy and each player also recorded a special thank-you video to the Colorado Rapids fans that was shown on the RapidsVision during the halftime ceremony Saturday night.

Check out the winners of last season's 2005 Rapids Team Award winners by CLICKING HERE.