KANSAS CITY, Mo. – No crutches. No boot. Not even a noticeable limp. Ike Opara didn't look like someone with a season-ending ankle injury.
He didn't feel like one, either, when he went for what he thought was a routine MRI exam that would clear him for a return to the pitch. Instead, the Sporting Kansas City center back will undergo surgery on Wednesday to repair a chondral defect sustained in a 3-2 victory over Colorado on March 29.
“It definitely caught me off guard when the doctor called and broke the news to me,” Opara told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “I was expecting a sprained ankle or just some swelling still, and to get that information was a little more of a shock and harder to take for sure. But I've got great staff to help me out – team, family, friends. They've been very supportive, and I'm really optimistic.”
Shortly after Opara was injured, Manager Peter Vermes said he expected the defender to make a quick recovery from what the club believed was a simple ankle contusion. Opara was hurt and had to come out of the match when he caught the studs of the Rapids' Jared Watts while attempting to clear the ball out of Sporting's penalty area (video above).
“I knew he had pain,” Vermes said on Monday, “but I was as surprised as you were. I feel really bad for him.”
Despite the injury – and the Rapids being awarded a penalty kick on the play when Opara's arm hit the ball as he was falling to the pitch in pain – Opara said he bears no ill will toward Watts.
“It was unneccessary in the regard that it could have been prevented,” he said. “Obviously, he was trying to play the ball and missed, and I ended up catching the brunt of it. So maybe it could have been prevented, but he was trying to get a goal. So, fair play to him. I don't think he was trying to do what happened. It's just part of the game. It just turned out worse than expected.”
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When the severity of the injury and Opara's upcoming surgery were announced last week, Vermes said there was no timetable for Opara to complete his rehab work and return to match fitness after Wednesday's procedure.
“I'm very optimistic that I'll be back at 100 percent,” Opara said. “It's just going to take time. Barring any setbacks in the rehab process, I'm very optimistic. It's just unfortunate to have the time out this season.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.