Sporting Kansas City's defensive depth in flux after Ike Opara suffers season-ending ankle injury

Ike Opara gets aerial in CLBvSKC

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Sporting Kansas City don't expect Ike Opara to play again this season. Beyond that, they don't have any idea when the young center back will be able to return to the pitch.

And that, manager Peter Vermes said, will likely accelerate the development of 16-year-old Homegrown defender Erik Palmer-Brown.

“Erik's going to have to be a part of it,” Vermes told reporters on Thursday. “He's going to have to step up a little quicker.”

Palmer-Brown has yet to play a competitive match for Sporting since signing last summer, however. Defensive midfielder Lawrence Olum has extensive experience at center back and will likely be the first choice to fill in for either Matt Besler or Aurélien Collin in central defense.

Opara will undergo surgery next Wednesday, after sustaining a chondral defect in his right ankle in Sporting's 3-2 victory over Colorado on March 29 when he collided with Rapids defender Jared Watts.

“It's a very serious injury in our sport,” manager Peter Vermes told reporters on Thursday. “It's in a place where two bones come together. It's going to take a while for him to come back from, No. 1.

"No. 2 is, it's going to be a situation where he could have some lasting issues over the years. I just hope that everything gets done right and he comes back from his recovery well. It's not going to be an easy injury to come back from.”

Vermes also wasn't pleased that Colorado were awarded a penalty kick on the play, when Opara's arm made contact with the ball as he was falling to the pitch.

“We got a double whammy on it,” Vermes said. “First and foremost, he gets injured. Second of all, they got a penalty kick when it shouldn't even be a penalty kick. It should be a foul against the player, who would have been dealt with accordingly, and it would have been a free kick going our way.

“He gets injured, he's out of the game and now he's dealing with an injury.”

The 25-year-old Opara had three goals in a career-high 18 appearances in 2013 after being traded to Sporting from San Jose. This year, he had two starts and three total appearances in league play and started both of Sporting's CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matches.

“He's done very well for us,” Vermes said. “He's always had great performances in that position. And now that we have Matt [Besler] going with the US national team to the World Cup, it's a real difficult situation for us.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.