The list of nominees for the July 2016 Soka Fans’ Player of the Month is out following the culmination of the month’s Kenyan Premier League (KPL) matches on Sunday 24 July.
The first on the roster is Chemelil Sugar FC’s Hillary Echesa. The experienced midfielder has got it going not just for him but also his club in the second half of the season and despite mostly being deployed as a deep sitting midfielder, he is the top scorer at the Awasi based team with five goals to his name.
The Millers went to the midseason break on a poor run, especially at home, which saw the team etched low in the league standings but he led from the front in the second leg, scoring three goals in the opening three matches as the millers picked seven points off a possible nine in the three matches.
Echesa delivered the winner when the Millers took on AFC Leopards and was at it again with the winner when the game against Sofapaka seemed headed for a 1 – 1 draw and he helped his team bag a point with a last minute goal against Tusker.
His importance to the team can’t be more emphasized, having been responsible directly for each of his team’s seven points earned in the month. He was unfortunate to miss the final league match of the month against Kakamega Homeboyz and subsequently the Millers dropped three points.
In terms of discipline he was excellent with no card on him despite playing each minute of the three matches.
Odera was also a key performer for his team, Nairobi City Stars. A series of great shows from the former Gor Mahia man left a lot of questions as to how and why his team is seemingly stuck in the drop zone.
When his team looked set for a loss against Ulinzi Stars, Odera popped up with the striker that ensured shared spoils and though it only atoned for earlier misses in the match, the fact that it delivered a points eased a lot of pressures at the Kawangware based team.
His goal against Gor Mahia is what left all surprised; a deft flick that wrongfooted the entire Gor Mahia backline and not even the alert Boniface Oluoch could do anything to stop what could potentially settle as the goal of the season.
The goal came just seconds after Gor Mahia’s Harun Shakava had opened the scores for the champions; unfortunately, Collins Okoth’s late winner for Gor Mahia did the damage.
Like Echesa, he played a key role for his team and had a clean disciplinary record.
Kakamega Homeboyz has been on an upward and at the moment the newly promoted side is in the top half and not looking like they would let go of their top flight status as was the case in 2013.
The reason for the rise, at least lately, has been Ali Bai. The former Western Stima and Bandari FC man has a small frame that could be deceiving of his trait and Gor Mahia and Sofapaka defenders would know too well.
With a goal against Gor Mahia he stopped the champions on their way to a ninth straight league win and another goal against Sofapaka stopped the 2009 champions on their way to their third win of the season, both matches ending in 1 – 1 draws.
He then turned provider as he got the assist for Charles Momanyi to score the winner against Chemelil Sugar on the 19th week of action.
Mukangula has been a standout player for Thika United in the first month of the second leg, shining bright even on afternoons that the club really struggled to do anything right He got two goals for his side in the month, one against Gor Mahia in the 1 – 2 loss and one against title contenders Mathare United as Thika United returned to winning ways.
The only blemish to the youngster’s fine run in the month is that he was booked in the win over Mathare United. Still he takes a place among the nominees for the award.
The last on the list is Western Stima goalkeeper Levis Opiyo. The young keeper has slotted into the team so easily like a glove and managed to displace the number one keeper Gabriel Andika who in the first leg ranked as one of the top keepers in the country.
Stima’s rise in the second leg may not have been without the keeper’s contribution, with three clean sheets in four matches. The only concession he had was against Sofapaka on his debut, a match Western Stima won 2 – 1 to complete a first ever double over Sofapaka. He went on to keep clean sheets against his two former employers Thika United and Posta Rangers as well as against title contenders Mathare United.
The fact that he managed a big impact on his first month with the Kakamega team secures him a slot among the nominees.
The winner will be awarded with a personalised trophy and Ksh 10,000. Voting will end on Wednesday 10 August.