CHICAGO (Dec. 12, 2016) – U.S. Paralympic National Team forward Adam Ballou has been voted the 2016 U.S. Soccer Disabled Player of the Year.
Ballou, who has been part of the PNT player pool since 2007, was the team’s top goalscorer at the 2016 Paralympic Games with two goals. He scored both against the Netherlands, rescuing a dramatic 2-2 tie in the last moments of the opening game for the USA.
“I’m honored to be named the 2016 U.S. Soccer Disabled Player of the Year,” Ballou said. “In the class of competitors, the others and their teams did great things this year. I’m honored to be in that category. This award isn’t about me, though. It’s about the program. I hope my story can inspire young kids with cerebral palsy. I’m grateful for everyone who has helped me from youth soccer all the way to the Paralympics.”
Ballou’s first goal of the Paralympics came just over two minutes into the USA’s opening match against Group B foe, the Netherlands. Trying to notch an early goal against a heavily favored Dutch side, PNT goalkeeper Sean Boyle sent a long clearing pass past the halfway line to Tyler Bennett, who received the ball with his head, deflecting it forward for a streaking Ballou. The Virginia Beach, Va., native put his all into his first touch, a low, right-footed shot at the top of the box, which quickly skipped past the Dutch ‘keeper and inside the near post.
The two-time U.S. Soccer Disabled Player of the Year nominee struck again with the U.S. trailing 2-1 in the final seconds of the match. PNT forward Seth Jahn tossed a long throw in to the center of the box, where Ballou, the shortest of the three targeted players, headed the ball off a Dutch defender and inside the post to earn the historic draw.
“I am delighted to hear that Adam has been given this accolade especially with consideration to the many other excellent nominees,” PNT head coach Stuart Sharp said. “Adam’s commitment to the PNT program has been significant, but even more so in 2016 when he up-routed his life to move to Atlanta to train full-time with selected squad members. During 2016 Adam made significant improvements to his game which has helped the PNT finish the year with its highest ever World Ranking of 6th place. Adam is a true gamer and I will never forget the opening moments of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games when he executed a volleyed goal, followed by headed goal in the final seconds of the match, against the heavily favored Dutch, to gain us some vital points. Adam is a fine example of a player that has worked hard with what he has been given and I have been delighted to see him, since returning from Rio, give back to the community with coaching sessions and guest lectures.”
A new voting process was put into place in 2014. Votes are collected from respective National Team coaches, National Team players who have earned a cap in 2016, American soccer league (MLS, NASL and NWSL) head coaches, select media members, former players and administrators.The Disabled Player of the Year was first awarded in 2012, with Felicia Schroeder receiving the honor.