Commerce City, Colo. - Matt Pickens checked off quite a few milestones in 2012. And on Saturday he added two honors that recognized him for his outstanding season in front of goal.
Pickens was selected by his teammates and assistant coaches as the 2012 Most Valuable Player. In addition, fans selected the goalkeeper as the inaugural winner of the Fan Favorite Award through voting on ColoradoRapids.com. He was presented with both awards following the season finale, a 2-0 win over Houston.
"It's great, and I'm very honored," Pickens said. "It's good to be respected, especially amongst your peers. I think that's big, especially in sports. And the fans have been great to me ever since I came here in 2009. I always say that you play for trophies and you play for your fans. It's really nice to be recognized by them on this challenging year."
Pickens, who signed a new multi-year contract in July, became the club's all-time leader in wins and shutouts by a goalkeeper this year. He also became just the 13th player in club history to play his 100th regular season match. His 40 career shutouts, including seven this year, place him 11th on the all-time MLS list.
At just 30-years old, Pickens doesn't feel he's reached his peak.
"I think every year I learn something," he said. "I learn something new about myself, about the League, the game, about the different teams we play. You have to learn, you have to constantly challenge yourself. Especially on a challenging year like this, I'm happy that I've pushed through it. It was a learning experience, and on the other side I think I'll become a little bit better of a goalkeeper because of it."
Pickens held Major League Soccer's longest streak of consecutive games started with 75 before being shut down with a groin injury for the final two games.
The 9-year veteran kept the Rapids in many games with highlight-reel saves in a season in which he faced more shots than he's ever faced before, also making the most saves of any season.
The 6-3 'keeper was narrowly edged out by Drew Moor for the Defensive Player of the Year award. He had previously won the that honor following his first season with Colorado in 2009.
"Having that respect amongst the group, it helps me to continue to push my leadership skills along and to be comfortable out here knowing that these guys have my back any day of the week, just like I've been trying to do for them the last few years."
"I want to build on this season. Obviously I want to turn those losses and one-pointers into three points next year. But it is nice to be recognized during a rough year we had."