A day after Sporting Kansas City learned it will be without defender Ike Opara for likely the rest of the season, technical director Peter Vermes turned his attention toward finding a suitable replacement.
That successor is expected to come from outside the club’s current roster.
Asked Tuesday if he will explore external options to replace Opara, who suffered an Achilles’ tendon rupture in Saturday’s match, Vermes responded, “We have to. We have to look at a new guy. We have to look at another player, for sure.”
Sporting KC hasn’t put a timetable on Opara’s absence, but Vermes acknowledged after Tuesday’s training session that Opara is unlikely to return in 2015.
The avenue for finding an addition to the defense isn’t yet clear. And while the options appear to be plentiful — transfer, loan, trade — none are simple or necessarily inexpensive options in the middle of the season. In that sense, Vermes didn’t put a timeline on the addition, but said, “The sooner, the better.”
“It’s tough now when you spent some time thinking this was an area you would be pretty good in,” Vermes said. “Things have changed. What am I going to say? It’s part of what we do. We’ll have find somebody, and I think we will.”
In the meantime, Sporting Kansas City will move forward with a rotation of Kevin Ellis, Erik Palmer-Brown and Jalil Anibaba to start alongside Matt Besler in the center of the defense. Anibaba has started the past four games at right fullback.
Filling in for Opara won’t be an easy task, of course. As a defender, Opara leads Sporting KC with two goals this season. He’s also been a primary figure in the team’s defense, which has recorded three shutouts in the past four matches.
“It’s a big loss,” midfielder Benny Feilhaber said. “Ike had been our best player and probably the best center back in the league up until now.”
It’s the second straight year an injury has abruptly halted his season.
Opara missed the final seven months of the 2014 season after he suffered a chondral defect in his right ankle last April. The Achilles’ tendon rupture is on the opposite leg and therefore unrelated, but the damage is the same.
“We’re sad for him,” Feilhaber said. “Obviously we had a pretty good idea of what had happened right after the game. He was upset, and we’re upset with him.
“It’s tough to see a guy work that hard to come back and then be playing that well and have that next injury come about.”