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HOW GHANAIAN PLAYERS FARED IN THE 2015 MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER (MLS) SEASON (PART1)
It’s been a month since Ghana’s Adam Larsen Kwarasey and his Portland Timbers teammates won the 2015 Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup after defeating Harrison Affuls’s Columbus Crew.

The 2015 MLS turned out to be one of the memorable seasons for Ghanaians. It did not only see higher representations from Ghana but also produced a Ghanaian MLS Cup winner, a Ghanaian Eastern Conference champion, and a Ghanaian Western Conference champion.

There was also a Ghanaian winner of the Canadian Championship (Voyageurs Cup).

A Ghanaian goalkeeper made the best save of the 2015 MLS season and a club like Chicago Fire named a Ghanaian as their MVP of the year.

Lloyd Sam (New York Red Bulls), Dominic Oduro (Montreal Impact), Kofi Opare (DC United), Gershon Koffie (Vancouver Whitecaps), Adam Larsen Kwarasey (Portland Timbers) and Harrison Afful (Columbus Crew) all made it to the MLS Post Season playoffs with Afful and Kwarasey keeping the flag of Ghana high in the 2015 MLS Cup Final.

Apart from the usual torchbearers, Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro, Lloyd Sam, Kofi Opare and Gershon Koffie, the 20th edition of the MLS officially welcomed Ghanaian stars Adam Larsen Kwarasey, David Accam and Kwadwo Poku into the league.

Harrison Afful joined in the middle of the season while Ishmael Yartey also had a loan stint in the course of the season. Yartey played 227 minutes for Portland Timbers in five games when he joined the team in late March, before returning to his mother club. He managed to provide one key assist in his short stay.

Some Ghanaian-born Americans also kept the season alive with their natural Ghanaian soccer flair.

Kwame Watson-Siriboe featured for New York City FC with C. J Sapong competing in the colors of Philadelphia Union. Houston Dynamo paraded Kofi Kwarteng Frempong Sarkodie while Gyasi Zardes continued his remarkable LA Galaxy story.

In a three-part series, www.ghsoccerus.net’s Richard Adjei Yirenkyi takes a look at how Ghanaian players fared in the 2015 MLS. We first take a look at eventual winner Adam Larsen Kwarasey in his debut MLS season:

Adam Larsen Kwarasey’s maiden season in the MLS for Champions PortlandTimbers will go down as one of the eventful soccer seasons for the Ghanaian goalie.

He joined the Timbers on December 8, 2014 in preparations for the 2015 MLS season and quickly capped a wonderful debut season in the MLS with series of breathtaking saves that earned Portland Timbers the Western Conference Championship as well as the much coveted MLS Cup.

His hard work did not go unnoticed as one of his many wonderful saves won him the 2015 MLS Save of the Year.

Kwarasey became a hero from the Portland Timbers' shootout victory over Sporting Kansas City in the Knockout Round of the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, and later added 2015 MLS Save of the Year honors to his list of accolades.

Kwarasey’s flying save on August 15 against Real Salt Lake beat out the 31 other candidates, finally edging the Vancouver Whitecaps' David Ousted in the final voting.

It is the first time a Portland Timbers player has won the Save of the Year honors.The award was decided by a fan vote, this year utilizing a new, bracket-style format.

The field was comprised of the 32 Save of the Week winners that were earned by goalkeepers during the 2015 regular season.
In the 31st minute of a scoreless match at Real Salt Lake, Kwarasey made a spectacular fingertip save of a Luke Mulholland blast from nearly 30 yards to keep the Timbers’ in the match. The ball was cleared from the Portland area, but Mulholland hit a perfectly timed first-time volley from distance that appeared headed to the upper left corner.



Kwarasey was quick to react, lunging high to his right to push the ball just beyond the goal for a corner kick. The save proved instrumental, and Timbers defender Nat Borchers scored in five minutes into second-half stoppage time to give Portland the 1- 0 win.

Out of the 32 saves that contested the award, Kwarasey had two saves in contention.On April 24, Kwarasey’s late block in Week 7 against New York City earned him his first ever Save of the Week in the MLS.

Kwarasey nabbed the Save of the Week for the first time after coming up huge with a clutch block on Khiry Shelton in the dying moments of the Portland Timbers' 1- 0 win over New York City FC. Then on August 21, Kwarasey won the Save of the Week for the second time. This time round, that historic save went on to win him the Save of the 2015 season.The Timbers goalkeeper helped preserve his league-leading 11th shutout with a beautiful leaping save on a Luke Mulholland laser from outside the box.

Kwarasey’s impressive maiden season highlights include playing120 minutes, logging a penalty kick goal and the decisive save in a 2-2 draw (7-6 win on penalties) against Sporting KC in the Western Conference Knockout Round on October 29;
started 33 of the team's 34 regular season matches; ranked first in MLS with 13 clean sheet; earned a shutout September 9 against Kansas City in a scoreless draw; logged three consecutive shutouts from August 2 to15;
registered a 313-minute shutout streak from July 25 to August 21; tallied clean sheets on June 6 (New England), June 20 (Houston) and July 5 (San Jose);
registered his fifth shutout on May 27 in a 1-0 win over DC United; made four saves in a 2-1 win over Montreal on May 9;
earned his fourth shutout of the season on May 2 against Vancouver; made five saves in a 1-0 win over New York City FC on April 19;
tallied a clean sheet, making two saves in a scoreless draw at Sporting KC on March 21; earned a clean sheet in his Timbers and MLS debut on March 7, saving two shots in a scoreless draw against Real Salt Lake and made four saves in a 3-1 win over Seattle in the U.S. Open Cup on June 16.  Kwarasey’s regular season statistics reads 33 games played and started, 2,970 minutes played with an impressive 80 saves.
In the post season playoffs, he played and started all five games for Portland Timbers with as many as 480 minutes. He also made eight saves in the playoffs to help Portland Timbers win the Western Conference Championship and the MLS Cup.
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