HOUSTON – “Shooters shoot.”
Those were the words from Sporting Kansas City center back Ike Opara after scoring Wednesday’s eventual game winner in his team’s 2-0 victory against the Houston Dynamo in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16.
Opara’s 61st minute header was the towering defender's third goal in five games and comes days after the center back’s bicycle kick goal — which proved to be the game winner and is earmarked for MLS Goal of the Week — against the LA Galaxy.
Is Opara a shooter now?
“That’s the way I classify myself these days,” Opara said through a smile.
Opara’s response is in line with how Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes sees his defensive stalwart these days. Vermes notes that this has happened before with Opara.
“This is what happens to him when he opens up his account each year, all of a sudden he starts to get on this roll. He really does. It’s kind of strange,” Vermes said. “He’s just in a rhythm at the moment.”
Vermes and the rest of Sporting KC would love to see Opara carry that momentum through most of the season. Truthfully, even if he isn’t on a scoring roll, just having him healthy and on the field is a win for Sporting KC.
In the last three years, Opara has been bit by the injury bug. In 2014 a right ankle chondral defect took him out. A year later it was a ruptured Achilles tendon. Last season he managed to appear in 26 games as he regain his fitness and health.
“I’m happy for him [Opara],” Vermes said. “Not only for the goals but really more for the fact that he’s been playing consistently and playing at a higher level at the moment based on the fact that he’s put in a lot of hard work.”
Vermes, who knocked his head as if it was wood, said he hopes Opara can finish this season without any injuries. Opara concurred with his coach.
“I just needed an offseason to build my body up and get a routine that I was comfortable with off and on the field,” Opara said. “And I’ve been reaping the rewards this season so far.”