UPDATE (July 23): For Minnesota United fans holding out hope Ike Opara would join his team for the knockout rounds, Loons coach Adrian Heath poured cold water on that possibility following Minnesota United’s 2-2 draw against the Colorado Rapids in their Group D finale Wednesday night.
“No, he won’t be available,” Heath said after in a post-match press conference. No, he’ll be staying at home for the tournament.”
Reigning MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara will not play in the MLS is Back Tournament as he continues rehab on a preexisting condition, the player announced on Thursday. He adds his absence is agreed upon by Minnesota United and MLS.
"I'm sad I'm not there with my guys but will be the biggest fan from home in MN!" Opara wrote.
(1/2) Before it’s reported elsewhere, I want to let the fans know that I am currently not in Orlando with my teammates. I am continuing my physical rehabilitation on a preexisting condition that was agreed upon between the league and MNUFC. I’m sad I’m not there with my guys— Ike Opara (@ikeopara) July 2, 2020
(2/2) but will be the biggest fan from home in MN!— Ike Opara (@ikeopara) July 2, 2020
Opara, 31, joined the Loons in a blockbuster trade from Sporting KC ahead of the 2019 season and helped turn one of the league's worst defenses from 2018 into one of the best in MLS, picking up his second MLS Defender of the Year trophy along the way. He made 30 appearances, his third straight season with 30 or more appearances after a handful of injury-plagued seasons at the beginning of his career.
The two-time MLS Best XI honoree helped lead Minnesota to a flying start to the 2020 season, scoring twice over the club's first two games. The center back had three goals last season, a constant threat on set pieces.
Minnesota now have a question mark in central defense alongside fellow starting defender Michael Boxall. Jose Aja is the primary option to fill the void left by Opara in Orlando, with Brent Kallman still suspended for three more games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance last year. Aja joined the club this offseason, previously featuring for the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2018.
The Loons return to play on July 12 against Sporting KC.