Adrian Heath strikes pessimistic tone about Ike Opara's Minnesota United return

Ike Opara - gesturing - expressively

Minnesota United FC head coach Adrian Heath’s tone about Ike Opara returning during the 2021 season has shifted south as preseason camp gets underway.

Heath previously sounded optimistic that the 2017 and 2019 MLS Defender of the Year could return from his undisclosed condition, but now he’s less sure.

"Ike was feeling particularly good at the time, but at the moment he's not feeling particularly good," Heath said in a Star Tribune story. "We're taking the situation week to week and see where we are and how he is. At the end of the day, we're governed by how he feels.

"This is not something we can talk to him about and tell him he has to work through the pain. He has a situation only he can tell us how he feels. We're obviously guided by that."

Opara played in the first two games of the 2020 season but has been unavailable ever since with his absence leading to Bakaye Dibassy and Michael Boxall forming a center-back partnership as the Loons made the Western Conference Final. 

The 32-year-old has battled injuries throughout his career, and now it’s unclear if he’ll be ready when the 2021 season begins April 17. But when Opara is healthy and available, he’s a lockdown center back who wrangles with the league's best strikers. Across 180 MLS appearances, Opara also has 20 goals and six assists, proving to be quite the aerial threat on set pieces.

In the same Star Tribune story, Heath noted that midfielder Thomas Chacon is nearing a loan move to an unnamed club in his native Uruguay. Chacon, 20, has appeared in just six games (257 minutes) since joining from Danubio FC as a Young Designated Player in August 2019.

Should Chacon depart, it’d free up a DP slot for Minnesota. Two midfielders, Jan Gregus and Emanuel Reynoso, also have DP tags, while Chacon hasn't quite found firm footing in MLS.