KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Lawrence Olum has a history of stepping in and stepping up at big moments for Sporting Kansas City. With Ike Opara out indefinitely after season-ending ankle surgery, Sporting will need him to do it again.
Before his injury, a right ankle microfacture sustained nearly three weeks ago in a 3-2 victory over Colorado, Opara was being counted on for a lot of central-defense minutes in a match-filled season that will also see Matt Besler lost to World Cup duty with the US national team beginning next month.
While that will mean a quicker road to the senior squad for Homegrown defender Erik Palmer-Brown, who is still a week shy of his 17th birthday, manager Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com on Monday that Olum can look forward to more time at center back in addition to his usual role as Uri Rosell's primary backup in the defensive midfield.
“He's that guy who can play in both of those positions,” Vermes said. “He's for sure going to have to take that on.”
Olum has provided plenty of timely help already for Sporting, since the former USL PRO journeyman signed on late in the 2011 season.
His late goal against Philadelphia in last year's regular-season finale (above) ultimately gave Sporting the right to host the MLS Cup Final – where he came off the bench after Rosell's 7th-minute ankle injury and went the rest of the way in Kansas City's shootout victory over Real Salt Lake.
The year before that, with Aurelien Collin suspended for caution accumulation, Olum played all 120 minutes of Sporting's U.S. Open Cup win – also in a shootout – over Seattle.
“He's done it in two finals for us, let alone all the other games,” Vermes said. “He finds a way in all those games, for sure.”
While most of his minutes have come in defensive midfield since that final – and he's likely to be in that spot for Saturday's home match against Montreal, with Rosell serving a red-card suspension – Olum said he's ready to move into the back four whenever he's needed there.
“I've played a couple of games over the past few years there,” he said, “so it just comes down to polishing my center back skills again.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.