Ike Opara was the key factor in turning around Minnesota’s defense. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

NEW YORK – Major League Soccer announced Thursday that Minnesota United FC’s Ike Opara has been named the league’s defender of the year.

The center back beame the fourth player in MLS history to win Ddfender of the Year multiple times, earning the award in 2017 while with Sporting Kansas City.

Opara received 32.64 percent of the votes.

New York City center back Maxime Chanot finished fourth in the balloting with 7.39 percent, while last year’s winner, Red Bulls central defender Aaron Long, was fifth while garnering 3.12 percent.

Opara guided Minnesota to its first trip to the MLS Cup Playoffs, transforming the defense from among the worst in MLS history to among the best in the league. After arriving from Sporting KC in one of the largest monetarily valued trades in league history, Opara helped Minnesota improve from its 2018 season in which it allowed 71 goals, then tied for the second-most in league history.

This season, Minnesota allowed a mere 43 goals, third-best in the Western Conference, with the 28-goal decrease ranking as the third-best turnaround in MLS history.

Behind Opara’s leadership, Minnesota finished fourth in the Western Conference, securing home-field advantage in Round 1 of the playoffs. The team here it will host its first postseason match at Allianz Field.

Opara played in 30 regular season matches, tying a career-high with three goals scored to go along with an assist in 2,566 minutes played. The North Carolina native finished third in the league with 155 clearances and his 22 blocked shots were among the top 20 in MLS this season.

The third overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, Opara became the fourth player to win multiple defender of the year awards, joining Carlos Bocanegra, Robin Fraser and Chad Marshall. Outside of MLS regular season play, Opara helped Minnesota advance to the finals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup this season.

Minnesota United FC will host the LA Galaxy at Allianz Field in Round 1 of the playoffs Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN / ESPN Deportes / WatchESPN / TSN4 / TVA Sports).

The award was voted on by MLS club technical staff, media, and current MLS players. Below is a breakdown of the voting results:

 

Defender of the Year Player % Club % Media % Final %
Ike Opara (MIN) 25.75% 27.27% 44.88% 32.64%
Walker Zimmerman (LAFC) 20.40% 17.17% 12.20% 16.59%
Miles Robinson (ATL) 19.40% 13.13% 15.75% 16.09%
Maxime Chanot (NYC) 1.67% 16.16% 4.33% 7.39%
Eddie Segura (LAFC) 4.35% 9.09% 5.91% 6.45%
Aaron Long (NY) 2.34% 5.05% 1.97% 3.12%

MLS Defender of the Year Winners:
2019: Ike Opara – Minnesota United FC
2018: Aaron Long – New York Red Bulls
2017: Ike Opara – Sporting Kansas City
2016: Matt Hedges – FC Dallas
2015: Laurent Ciman – Montreal Impact
2014: Chad Marshall – Seattle Sounders FC
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 SC
2008: Chad Marshall – Columbus Crew SC
2007: Michael Parkhurst – New England Revolution
2006: Bobby Boswell – D.C. United
2005: Jimmy Conrad – Kansas City Wizards
2004: Robin Fraser – Columbus Crew SC
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 – LA Galaxy
1998: Lubos Kubik – Chicago Fire
1997: Eddie Pope – D.C. United
1996: John Doyle – San Jose Earthquakes