Jalil Anibaba eager to join new team Sporting Kansas City and for competition with friend Ike Opara

Jalil Anibaba will be competing with his good friend Ike Opara for minutes in Sporting Kansas City's central defense next season. He's looking forward to it.

“That's what this profession is all about,” Anibaba told reporters in a conference call on Friday, after Sporting picked him up from Orlando City SC as the final piece of the trade that sent Aurelien Collin to the expansion Lions. “It's all about competing in every single aspect – on the training pitch, on the game pitch, even within the locker room in jovial things. I'll definitely be competing with Ike because we have a good relationship.

“Coming in, knowing someone like that and being able to learn from his experience within the club, will definitely pay dividends I'm sure.”

Anibaba played his first three MLS seasons in Chicago and this past one in Seattle before being taken by Orlando City in this week's Expansion Draft before being sent to Kansas City.

Who was one of the first people he talked to about the deal? Of course it was Opara, who has recovered from a season-ending ankle injury and is looking to compete for a starting spot in 2015.

“When I knew that things were going down for sure, I gave him a call,” Anibaba said. “We talked for a long time, and he gave me the rundown on the club. After talking to him, I was even more excited. Having a guy like that that I know is definitely going to help me transition into the club and the locker room smoothly.”

The 26-year-old defender, who can play all four backline positions but said he is most comfortable at center back, is also looking forward to learning Sporting's high press.

“I feel like any time I've played against Kansas City, the team I was with at the time was never comfortable,” he said. “The games were never comfortable for the opponent. That's intriguing to me, and I think I can assist in that for sure.”

And in his new manager, a former center back himself, Anibaba sees a kindred spirit.

“I've always been curious about what it would be like to play for Peter Vermes,” he said. “I love his intensity. I love his drive and dedication. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and I think I can definitely relate to that. I think I have similar qualities as well within my personality.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.

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