Rapids Unveil 2008 Player Award Winners

COMMERCE CITY CO (ColoradoRapids.com) - At halftime of their final regular-season home match of the year vs. Real Salt Lake on Saturday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park the Rapids unveiled the winners of the club's 2008 player awards.
The Rapids players who were selected as award winners in the different categories listed below were revealed to the public in a special halftime event as each player recorded a videotaped acceptance speech that was shown in front of the crowd on the giant RapidsVision.
(To view the players' acceptance speeches in exclusive video in ColoradoRapids.com's audio/video section click here)!
The club's award winners were selected based on players' performances over the course of the entire season and were voted on by members of the local Colorado media.
The 2008 Colorado Rapids Player Award winners are:
RAPIDS MOST IMPROVED PLAYER:#22 Nick LaBrocca
This award goes to the Rapids player who has shown the most marked improvement from the end of last year to the present. Nick is the only Rapids player this season to have played in all 30 regular season matches. In just his second MLS season he took a huge step forward in 2008 after only appearing in two games last season. Nick made an immediate impact in '08 scoring his first career goal in one of the team’s biggest road wins of the year as his header in the 68th minute gave the Rapids a 1-0 victory at New England on April 12 their first win at Gillette Stadium in nearly six years. Nick would later add another goal to his season total against Columbus which was an MLS Goal of the Week nominee. Leading the team in minutes played and starts his contributions and leadership on the field this season were immeasurable.
RAPIDS DEFENDER OF THE YEAR:#7 Cory Gibbs
This award goes to the Rapids player who has shown the most steadfast and gritty defensive skills on the back line over the course of the year. Despite joining the Rapids mid-way through the season Cory’s presence in the defense helped spark the Rapids’ season turnaround and added invaluable veteran leadership. Cory made his debut in a Rapids kit just four days after signing with the club and in his first match he played all 90 minutes and helped Colorado snap a four-game winless streak by defeating Kansas City 2-1. Cory anchored a Rapids backline that allowed just one goal from Sept. 4 through Sept. 20 and leading to an undefeated month of September for Colorado. The Rapids' defense would also finish the season allowing the league’s lowest shots-against total. His contributions were not just limited to the defensive end either. Cory tallied his first career goal which was also an MLS Goal of the Week nominee against LA on a diving header to the far post off a Terry Cooke corner kick on Oct. 12.
RAPIDS COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: #12 Mike Petke
This award goes to the Rapids player who has overcome setback or injury to rebound and make himself a better player over the last year. An 11-year MLS veteran Mike Petke has seen his share of ups and downs. Just one day before the Rapids' season opener against LA Mike was placed on the disabled list with an ankle injury. After multiple diagnoses and subsequent surgery that led to his missing the team’s first 19 games he made his season debut playing a full 90 minutes against Kansas City on August 16 and he has been a mainstay in the lineup since. Mike’s presence along the backline was a main factor in the Rapids’ resurgence back into the playoff race. His solid defensive play can also not overshadow his savvy on the offensive end of the pitch; both of Mike’s goals this season have led to Rapids road victories.
RAPIDS NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: #20 Tom McManus
This award is presented to the Rapids player who has had prior professional experience but has made the biggest impact to the team in his first year with the club. Bringing with him an infectious on-field energy and arguably the team’s hardest shot Tom added a new dimension to the Rapids’ attack in 2008. Recording five goals and two assists on the year his passion for the game quickly made him a fan favorite. Tom’s most memorable moment in his first year with the Rapids will also go down as one of the most memorable goals ever scored in franchise history. An MLS Goal of the Week winner and potential league Goal of the Year the Scottish forward received a pass 35 yards from goal turned and hit a right footed rocket that ripped the back of the net against Chivas USA on May 24 sending the fans at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park into a frenzy.
RAPIDS COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD: #24 Justin Hughes
This award is given to the Rapids player who has most volunteered his time and efforts outside of the stadium and who has led the way amongst his teammates in making appearances and giving back to our local Colorado community. Any player that would have had to face the adversities that Justin Hughes saw this season might hang their head and feel sorry for themselves. But with Justin this was not the case. After suffering a groin injury that required surgery the first week of the season he later injured his shoulder during rehab placing him on the Rapids’ season ending injury list. This was not the way Justin had envisioned his second MLS season but he seized the chance to dedicate his time and energy into giving back. Making more than 60 community appearances in 2008 a team-leading number Justin showed an ability to reach out to children through school speeches soccer clinics and camps to convey his enthusiasm for the game and emphasize the importance of healthy eating studying hard and being a good teammate at every appearance.
U.S. SOCCER FOUNDATION RAPIDS HUMANITARIAN OF THE YEAR: #1 Bouna Coundoul
This award is presented to the Rapids player who has most championed charitable causes and has inspired and led efforts to make a positive difference in the world. For the third consecutive season Bouna Coundoul earns this honor. This year Coundoul made over 30 community appearances which included school visits youth camps and youth field trips. Coundoul also worked with "Nets Without Borders" to help promote malaria prevention awareness through locally-run soccer clinics. His time working with youth through soccer also helped him reach out to African refugee children through MLS’s Passback program which collects new and gently used soccer equipment throughout the season to donate to underserved children. An inspiration on and off the field Bouna is always giving of himself for the benefit of children both in his native Senegal as well as here in Colorado.
BUDWEISER RAPIDS GOLDEN BOOT AWARD: #9 Conor Casey
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 Colorado Rapids. Conor Casey has a knack for finishing. Whether it is finishing the season strong or finishing with one of his team-leading nine goals on the year. He finished games strong as well registering two game-winners and two game-tying scores on the season. His 2008 season could have been finished though before it even started as he began the year on the team’s disabled list recovering from a torn ACL suffered at the end of last year. Returning to the pitch on May 24 Conor quickly became the club's go to scorer recording 11 goals on the season and adding 2 assists to his career-high in goals. Three-times in 2008 he had one of his scores nominated for MLS Goal of the Week. Conor’s crowning moment on the season came in the Rapids’ 5-4 win over New York in which he recorded a hat-trick that included a 90th minute game winning goal earning him his first MLS Player of the Week honor. Conor’s scoring touch was not limited to the regular season though as he added a goal in a Rapids Reserve match a goal in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play-in match and a goal in the Rapids' exhibition match vs. Everton FC this year as well.
RAPIDS YOUTH TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR:Ryan Kawulok
New to the club for 2008 this award is presented to the player in the Rapids Academy who most embodied success on the field and represented the overall ideals and values of the Rapids' development system. Ryan Kawulok established himself since day one of the Rapids' youth development program. He was named captain of the inaugural Rapids Academy team and led them to the Super Y League Finals. Kawulok took the captains band again this year for the Rapids U-18 Development Academy team and has proven himself to be the heart and soul of the team as both a defensive midfielder and central defender. His standout play this year has translated especially well to his collegiate career as he has started and played every game to date as a freshman for the University of Portland.
RAPIDS MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:#25 Pablo Mastroeni
The Rapids Most Valuable Player Award goes to the player who has led the team by example who has most represented the club with pride and who has been most indispensable to the Rapids over the course of the season. For seven seasons now Pablo Mastroeni has been the heart and soul of the Rapids and this season was no different. Earning this award for the second consecutive year Pablo exemplified everything it means to be a Rapids player leaving it all on the field every game while serving as Team Captain again this season. Pablo’s talent and leadership was also recognized by his peers as he was named to his ninth overall and ninth consecutive MLS All-Star team which was tops among the 18 players on the roster and tied for second-most in MLS history. Pablo continues to leave his mark on the Rapids’ record books too climbing into the top 5 in all-time games played games started and minutes played this year.
The Colorado Rapids congratulate all of the club's 2008 player award winners!