After a season-ending ankle injury required Sporting Kansas City defender Ike Opara to endure nine months of rehab in 2014, he described that time as the toughest moments of his career.
Round two is on the way.
Opara suffered an Achilles’ tendon rupture late in Saturday’s scoreless draw against Real Salt Lake, tests confirmed Monday.
Sporting KC offered no timetable for his return — and Opara will undergo additional evaluation — but the recovery time for the injury is usually four to six months. That would put his 2015 season in jeopardy.
Opara, 26, suffered a chondral defect in his right ankle last April, an injury that necessitated surgery and ended his season. He said he spent the preseason in February still fighting through pain from the injury, but he had not missed a minute of action this season.
Opara leaped in the air to attempt to head a crossing pass during the 81st minute of a match against Real Salt Lake, but he winced in pain and grabbed his leg shortly after leaving the ground. His leg was not contacted on the play.
The injury is a major blow to Sporting Kansas City’s defense, with Opara providing reliable minutes alongside captain Matt Besler. He was also contributing to the team’s offensive attack, and he had two goals through six matches.
“Obviously you can talk a lot about the offensive threat, because Ike is incredible in the air, but more important for me, look at him defensively,” Besler said earlier this month. “He’s been steady. He’s been a rock.”
With Opara out, Sporting KC probably will turn to either Kevin Ellis or homegrown talent Erik Palmer-Brown to start in the center of the defense. Coach Peter Vermes said the club could also shift Jalil Anibaba inside. Anibaba has started the past four matches as the right outside fullback.
Graham Zusi returned to training Monday after missing the past two matches with a hamstring strain. Zusi told The Star on Saturday that he would “definitely” be ready to go for Saturday’s match in Los Angeles against the Galaxy.
Defender Chance Myers also took part in a portion of practice Monday, tough he sat out contact drills. Myers has not played since tearing his Achilles tendon last May.
“I’m not rushing to bring him back,” Vermes said of Myers. “He needs to get a steady flow of practices and then also recovery. That’s the big thing with him.”
Defender Seth Sinovic did not participate in practice, though he was running on the side. He sat out Saturday’s match with a groin strain.