TRANSFER TRACKER STATUS: Trade
One of Major League Soccer's foremost center backs is on the move.
Sporting Kansas City announced on Monday night that they traded Ike Opara to Minnesota United in exchange for $900,000 in Targeted Allocation Money, a sum that could rise to $1 million should certain incentives be met. The Kansas City Star's Sam McDowell first reported the move earlier on Monday evening.
Per ESPN's Jeff Carlisle, the $100,000 TAM incentive will be triggered if Minnesota make the playoffs in 2019:
In exchange for a hefty sum of TAM, Minnesota land Opara, the 2017 MLS Defender of the Year who has been – when healthy – a starter on one of the league's best backlines during his six years at the club.
“We’ve been laser-focused on adding starters in key positions of need this offseason and we feel that Ike [Opara] is an excellent addition to a really good core group of defenders already on our roster,” said MNUFC sporting director Manny Lagos in a team statement. “He provides a wealth of MLS experience – he is coming off of two great years. We are thrilled to add his quality and leadership to our roster.”
The move comes two months after Opara, 29, asked Sporting to either give him a raise or trade him, with his preference being to stay in KC. Opara, who had one year plus a club option for 2020 remaining on the contract he signed in January 2018, made over $342,000 in total compensation last year, per the MLS Players Association.
For Minnesota, Opara's addition represents another significant move in their offseason roster build. He joins star midfielder Osvaldo Alonso and Designated Player signing Jan Gregus among the new arrivals as the Loons gear up to open Allianz Field this spring.
“Going into this offseason we had targeted positions we felt were important to our success moving forward and this is another huge step to us achieving our goals,” said MNUFC head coach Adrian Heath. “We’ve just added a player who has challenged for U.S. Open Cup, Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup virtually every year, he won’t accept anything other than winning. When you added him to the likes of Ozzie Alonso, Jan Gregus, Romain Metanire, and the core group of players returning this year, we’ve set ourselves up to be successful going in to Allianz Field.”
Though Sporting are losing one of their regular starters, they remain deep at the center back position. Club captain Matt Besler will most likely be joined by 2018 summer arrival Andreu Fontas, while longtime head coach and technical director Peter Vermes also brought in Hungarian international Botond Barath this offseason.
Opara was originally drafted third overall by the San Jose Earthquakes in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft after three years at Wake Forest. However, injuries derailed a promising start to his MLS career and the Earthquakes traded him to Sporting following the 2012 campaign.
The injury bug initially followed Opara to the Midwest, where he made 27 regular-season appearances over his first three seasons with the club, though he did make three cameos off the bench in Sporting's 2013 MLS Cup run. Starting in 2016, Opara worked his way into the starting lineup, paving the way for a career 2017 in which he helped the club win the U.S. Open Cup. In total, Opara has appeared in 148 regular-season games plus another nine playoff games, with 15 goals and 5 assists to his name.
Internationally, Opara earned his first and to date only senior cap for the US national team in January 2018. He has also represented the US at the U-20 and U-23 levels.