Sporting Kansas City took a blow to its depth chart today with the announcement that defender Ike Opara will have ankle surgery that will keep him out for the rest of the 2014 season. Opara was injured in his last appearance for KC, against the Colorado Rapids almost two weeks ago. While attempting to clear a ball, Opara got hit on the ankle/leg by Rapid's midfielder, Jared Watts. Opara went down in a heap grabbing his leg, but in the process falling on the ball, which the referee felt was a hand ball, giving the Rapids a penalty kick.
In the aftermath of the call, Opara had to be stretchered off the field and was replaced by Aurelien Collin. After the game many KC fans in Colorado, including myself, saw Opara on crutches. The next day Tweets from Opara stated that it wasn't a break.
Jump ahead to the game last weekend against Real Salt Lake, Opara was not on the bench for KC. That wasn't overly surprising after the injury the weekend before, giving Opara a break made sense.
The news today though is a big blow for KC. Opara had become a solid contributor to Kansas City since the team traded for him before the 2013 season. Filling in when Matt Besler was away with the US team or Aurelien Collin was suspended, or when either needed a break, Opara appeared in 18 league games for KC, starting 15 of them. He also appeared in US Open Cup, CONCACAF Champions League, and playoff games. With his injury history in the past though, those were both career highs for the defender. He's missed a number of games due to injury in his career, including a broken left foot that caused him to miss a number of games when he was with San Jose.
The biggest blow this year will be for KC will be when Besler leaves to join the US team for the World Cup. With Opara out, the primary backup center back role will fall to Lawrence Olum. While Olum has played the center back position before, including in the 2012 US Open Cup final that KC won, he's spent most of the past year playing in the midfield, primarily as Oriol Rosell's back up in the deep lying midfield position. It shouldn't be a big change for him, but it'll still be a step down from Opara.
Behind Olum is where the bigger drop off is. KC's only other center back on the roster is 16 year old, Erik Palmer-Brown. The teenager, while appearing for the US youth team at a number of levels, including a call up to the U20 team for the Dallas Cup, likely is not in the position to be the primary back up while Besler is away.
If KC does want to make a move, they still have an open roster spot available. The player that they bring in likely won't be a big signing, depending on the team's hopes for the summer window, but they do have the ability to bring someone in if Peter Vermes wants to add to his depth.