Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sporting KC trades for defender Ike Opara

Sporting Kansas City acquired defender Ike Opara from the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday in exchange for Sporting KC's natural second round pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.

"Ike is a player we had very high on our draft board three years ago. If we had the top two picks, we would have selected both him and Teal (Bunbury)," Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes said. "He possesses all of the qualities and characteristics of becoming a top-level central defender in MLS. We are excited about all of his potential and look forward to working with him in the preseason."

Opara, 23, made 36 MLS appearances (including postseason) in the last three seasons with San Jose after being taken No. 3 overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft out of Wake Forest University.

"I'm very excited for the opportunity to play for Peter (Vermes)," Opara said. "It's a fantastic club and I think the last two years speaks for itself when you look at how well the team has done. This is an opportunity I couldn't say no to and I am excited to be joining the club."

As a rookie in 2010, Opara scored two goals in his first three professional matches en route to tallying three goals in 11 games before his season was cut short due to injury in July.

The fracture in his left foot would also cause him to miss the second half of the 2011 season after he played in eight of the team's first 11 games and scored a last-minute game-winner in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup qualifying.

Opara was selected to travel to Spain with Major League Soccer's Generation adidas team in December 2010 along with current Sporting KC teammate Teal Bunbury. He earned starts against Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano reserves.

This year, Opara appeared in 17 MLS matches (including postseason) for the Supporters' Shield winners. The Durham, N.C. native also continued his youth international career with his introduction to the United States Under-23 National Team.

He made a strong first impression in a February training camp that saw him captain the U-23's to a 2-0 win over Mexico's Under-23 National Team and score in a 2-1 victory over FC Dallas in a pre-season friendly.

Opara again teamed up with Bunbury as members of the United States 20-player roster for the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament and he started all three group stage games, contributing an assist in a 6-0 win over Cuba.

Opara also represented the U.S. at the under-20 age level, debuting as a starter in a scoreless draw against the Honduras U-20's in February 2008 and later recording the game-winning assist against Manchester United reserves in a May 2008 friendly.

He was a member of the United States team at the 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Egypt, starting all three games, and made eight total starts for the U-20's in 2009.

Opara's three-year collegiate career at Wake Forest saw him earn ACC Defender of the Year and All-ACC First Team honors in both 2008 and 2009.

He was an NSCAA All-American and M.A.C. Hermann Trophy semifinalist as a junior and helped lead the Deamon Deacons to the NCAA College Cup all three seasons, including the team's NCAA National Championship in 2007.