Sporting KC

Sporting KC defender Ike Opara on target to be ready for season opener

Sporting Kansas City defender Ike Opara (left) went for a header against Philadelphia’s Steven Vitoria during a game last season, but in April Opara suffered an Achilles tendon rupture and sat out the rest of 2015. He’ll be back for the start of the 2016 season.
Sporting Kansas City defender Ike Opara (left) went for a header against Philadelphia’s Steven Vitoria during a game last season, but in April Opara suffered an Achilles tendon rupture and sat out the rest of 2015. He’ll be back for the start of the 2016 season. along@kcstar.com

The conversations with Sporting Kansas City defender Ike Opara center on personal progress. It’s been that way for two years, really. His rehab. The recovery. A timeline for his return to the field.

But if nothing else, back-to-back MLS seasons marred by long-term injuries offer Opara a basis for comparison. So as he works his way back from the most recent mishap — an Achilles tendon rupture, which he suffered during a match last April — his progression analysis carries some weight.

“I’m further along this time of year than I was last” year, he said after Sporting KC took part in a training session at the Chiefs’ indoor facility Wednesday. “Now I just get to focus on playing soccer. Last time, I was focused on the injury, as well.

“I go through some bad days, but that’s expected. I haven’t (played soccer) in a while. But on the whole, it’s been pretty good. I just have to knock out the rust and get my sharpness back.”

Opara sat out only one training session during Sporting Kansas City’s two-week trip to Tucson, Ariz., for its preseason camp. The team will return to Tucson next week for the second wave of camp.

Last February, Opara was coming back from a chondral defect in his right ankle, which abruptly ended his 2014 season. He still managed to return in time for the 2015 season opener last March and started the first six games on the schedule.

A year later, despite Opara being ahead of that 2015 timeline, the team plans to take a more cautious approach with its projected starting center back.

“There’s no doubt. I’ve talked to him and said that we’re going to play him and then give him time off,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “A lot of it’s going to depend on how he’s feeling.”

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