Sporting Kansas City swap draft pick for defender Opara
Sporting Kansas City made their second big offseason move in the span of 24 hours on Wednesday, landing center back Ike Opara from the San Jose Earthquakes for a second round pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.
Opara, 23, made 36 MLS appearances (including postseason) in the last three seasons with San Jose after being taken No. 3 overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft out of Wake Forest University.
“Ike is a player we had very high on our draft board three years ago. If we had the top two picks, we would have selected both him and Teal [Bunbury],” Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes said in a statement. “He possesses all of the qualities and characteristics of becoming a top-level central defender in MLS. We are excited about all of his potential and look forward to working with him in the preseason.”
Opara appeared in 17 MLS matches (including postseason) for the Supporters’ Shield winners in 2012. The Earthquakes declined Opara's option following the season after newcomer Victor Bernardez emerged as a top option at center back along with veteran Jason Hernandez.
Opara also continued his youth international career this with his introduction to the United States Under-23 national team.
"I'm very excited for the opportunity to play for Peter,” Opara said. “It's a fantastic club and I think the last two years speaks for itself when you look at how well the team has done. This is an opportunity I couldn't say no to and I am excited to be joining the club."
As a rookie in 2010, Opara scored two goals in his first three professional matches en route to tallying three goals in 11 games before his season was cut short due to injury in July. The fracture in his left foot also caused him to miss the second half of the 2011 season after he played in eight of the team’s first 11 games and scored a last-minute game-winner in Lamar Hunt US Open Cup qualifying.
He made a strong first impression in a February training camp that saw him captain the U-23’s to a 2-0 win over Mexico’s Under-23 national team and score in a 2-1 victory over FC Dallas in a pre-season friendly. Opara again teamed up with Bunbury as members of the United States 20-player roster for the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament and he started all three group stage games, contributing an assist in a 6-0 win over Cuba.
Opara also represented the US at the under-20 age level, debuting as a starter in a scoreless draw against the Honduras U-20s in February 2008 and later recording the game-winning assist against Manchester United reserves in a May 2008 friendly. He was a member of the United States team at the 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Egypt, starting all three games, and made eight total starts for the U-20s in 2009.