Ike Opara

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MLS Snapshots: Opara scores a bike, SKC win; SJ thump RSL

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The game in 100 words (or less): I’m going to start by quoting myself (re: Sporting Kansas City), via Twitter: “This team is better in June than it was in March, and will be better in October than it is in June. Just steadily progressing.” Saturday’s 2-1 victory away to LA Galaxy (just their second road win of the season, and the team’s fourth and fifth away goals in 10 games) is the latest sign of progress for Peter Vermes’ side, as they extend their lead on the rest of the Western Conference to five points. Roger Espinoza and Ike Opara scored the visitors’ goals — the latter coming in spectacular, most unexpected fashion — before the hosts pulled back to 2-1 through Dave Romney late in the second half. LA, meanwhile, sit sixth in the West, one point clear of the wrong side of the playoff cut line.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Three moments that mattered

22′ — Diop’s howler puts SKC up 1-0 — Sometimes — and this is one of those moments for Clement Diop — you just want the ground to open up and swallow you into the middle of the Earth.

35′ — Opara rides his bike to 2-0 — Ike Opara, a center back, scored a bicycle kick from a long ball played to him by Matt Besler, Sporting KC’s other center back. It’s a sequence of events you won’t see again for a long, long time.

59′ — Smith goes through Feilhaber, who is subbed off — Baldomero Toledo allowed Nathan Smith to stay on the field after this “tackle” on Benny Feilhaber.

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Man of the match: Ike Opara

Goalscorers: Espinoza (22′), Opara (35′)


San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Real Salt Lake

Three Two moments that mattered

13′ — Hoesen blasts a loose ball past Rimando for 1-0 — If you fail to clear the ball anywhere inside 12 yards, you’re probably going to get scored on. Danny Hoesen got all of this one.

68′ — Hoesen sets up Ureña for 2-0 — Hoesen’s speculative through ball found its way into space, and Marco Ureñat took it from there, putting the game away and handing RSL their eighth loss in 11 games.

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Man of the match: Danny Hoesen

Goalscorers: Hoesen (13′), Ureña (68′), Hernandez (90+4′)

Sporting KC brings back Feilhaber, Opara with new deals

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Sporting KC dramatically fell in the postseason for the second consecutive season, however, the club announced on Wednesday that it will be sticking with two influential players.

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The club decided to bring back midfielder Benny Feilhaber and defender Ike Opara as Sporting looks to get back to the postseason in 2017 for the sixth straight season.

Feilhaber, 31, extends his term with the Western Conference side on a two-year deal, while Opara, 27, will be back with the two-time MLS Cup champions in 2017. Sporting KC also has options in 2018 and 2019 for Opara, who joined the team in 2013.

La La Land exodus continues, but Galaxy will rebuild, reload

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The LA Galaxy, not far removed from winning three MLS Cups in four years — they completed the feat just 12 months ago, actually — are in full-on tear-it-down-to-build-it-back-up mode this winter, and rightly so.

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On Tuesday it was announced that MLS’s premier club had sold U.S. national team defender Omar Gonzalez to Pachuca of Mexico’s Liga MX, a move that would allow financial flexibility to address a number of issues ahead of the 2016 season. Tuesday’s announcement was followed by the sale of midfielder Juninho to Club Tijuana, also of Liga MX. Both players won three MLS Cups during their time in Los Angeles, and both players leave massive holes to fill, in so many different ways.

So, where do the Galaxy go from here? In typical Galaxy fashion, they won’t just rebuild; they’ll reload.

For starters, no team in the league sells itself to players and better convinces them to make the plunge into MLS, than the Galaxy. While most MLS teams in a similar situation would look to rebuild through retreaded MLS players who’ve been around the block a few times, the player pool from which the Galaxy will select is much larger — and, to put it bluntly — better than that of the average MLS team.

[ MORE: MLS hot stove — Offseason signings, trades update ]

Rebuilding Building a backline

In truth, the defense was going to need a major addition at center back this winter, which would have been nearly impossible given roster and cap restrictions, to make it anything more than passable in 2016 anyway. The fact that Gonzalez is also gone means the Galaxy can employ two MLS-caliber center backs in 2016, rather than just one, as has been the case for a handful of years now.

While the Galaxy didn’t receive any additional allocation money for selling Gonzalez, the $436,250 (Designated Player salary cap charge) of savings against the cap could easily be used to sign a pair of starting center backs for the price of one.

MLS-based options: Ike Opara, Sporting Kansas City — it’s a deal that might just make sense for both sides (for more, listen here); Chris Schuler, Real Salt Lake (out of contract) — when healthy, one of the highest-upside center backs in the league, and a perfect candidate to cover acres of space.

Verdict: Whoever the Galaxy go for at center back, he/they will need to be extremely mobile and able to cover lots of ground with Gerrard acting as a turnstile in front of the backline. Whatever they do, they should not go out and spend whatever it would cost to sign Ashley Cole.

[ MORE: Gil leaves RSL for MexicoBeckham wants Zlatan in Miami ]

Tailoring a midfield to Gerrard’s strengths/weaknesses

The massive elephant in the room is the indisputable fact that Steven Gerrard‘s presence on the roster forced such widespread roster turnover this winter. His $6.3 million annual salary makes him the highest-paid Galaxy player heading into 2016 — all for a player who hugely disrupted the team’s chemistry and balance upon his arrival in August of this year.

The $350,000 of salary cap relief from selling Juninho, plus the windfall of allocation money received in the deal, plus the league’s additional investment of targeted allocation money, plus the sale of Gonzalez, means the Galaxy now have close to $2 million of on-budget cash with which to work this winter — flexibility they’d otherwise not have had.

MLS-based options: Jermaine Jones, New England Revolution (out of contract) — they’d have to give up a serious chunk of cash to acquire his rights from the Revs, but he’s got a house in LA and he’s the box-to-box terror Gerrard needs to play alongside; Perry Kitchen, D.C. United (out of contract) — again, they’d have to acquire his rights, and he’d have to be the stationary d-mid in front of the defense, but he’s a better player right now than both Jones and Gerrard; Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle Sounders (reportedly on the trading block) — his legs aren’t what they once were, and he’s hurt with alarmingly increasing frequency, but he’s as experienced and wily as they come.

Verdict: This is probably where the Galaxy look to the international market, more so than at center back, at least. Again, Gerrard needs a very specific midfield partner to protect him defensively and afford him the opportunity to maraud forward when he decides it’s time to play hero-ball. Think: a Roger Espinoza-type player.

However they rebuild and reload this winter, the Galaxy will be a factor come August and September next year, because 1) they’re the Galaxy, which means it’s their birth-given right in MLS; and, 2) they’re the richest (and most astute) team in the league, now flush with the most MLS-specific cash we’ve seen in a long, long time. To the rest of MLS: beware.

Sporting KC DF Ike Opara suffers ruptured Achilles tendon, could miss rest of season

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Ike Opara is injured and will miss an extended period of time — again.

Opara, Sporting Kansas City’s 26-year-old defender who began the 2015 season in Defender of the Year form, left Sporting KC’s 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake on Saturday after suffering what appeared to be a left-leg injury in the 81st minute.

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On the play, Opara leapt for a header inside RSL’s penalty area but ended up clutching his lower left leg before reaching the top of his jump. After being stretched off the playing field, Opara tried to walk from the sideline to the locker room under his own power but was unable to do so.

On Monday, Sporting announced that Opara suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon on the play. Opara’s latest serious injury comes just over a year after his last, a chondral defect in his right ankle, suffered March 29, 2014.

Opara’s numerous contributions through six games this year, from SportingKC.com:

He leads Sporting KC – and all MLS defenders – with two goals in 2015, while also anchoring a backline that has three shutouts and has conceded the fewest shots per game (9.83) of any team in the league this season. In addition, Opara leads all MLS players in 2015 with 30 interceptions and 33 aerials won, while ranking second in duels won (55).

The timetable for a return from a ruptured Achilles tendon is usually in the neighborhood of four to six months, meaning Opara’s 2015 regular season is possibly finished. Per the club, an official timetable for Opara’s return is not yet known.

[ MORE: MLS Team of the Week — Week 6 | Player of the Week ]

Jalil Anibaba, who has started Sporting’s last four games at right back, Kevin Ellis, a right back-turned-center back in 2014, and 17-year-old Erik Palmer-Brown are likely to be head coach Peter Vermes’s go-to choices to replace Opara alongside Matt Besler, who was this week called up by the U.S. national team’s friendly against Mexico (Wednesday, 8:30 pm ET).

Sporting right back Chance Myers suffered a ruptured Achilles on May 23 of last year and is yet to return to action, though he did rejoin first-team training on Monday for the first time since the injury.

MLS Player of the Week — Week 4

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There are plenty of worthy candidates for Week 4’s MLS Player of the Week honors, presented by the stunning and salient minds of Pro Soccer Talk.

From inspiring comeback stories like Jordan Allen’s match-winner for Real Salt Lake — that could’ve been part of a 2-2 match if MLS refs weren’t being MLS refs — to some good-looking clean sheets, there were standout performances all over the pitch.

And we won’t be giving out the honors to Robert Earnshaw despite his late game-winner for Vancouver because, well, did you see the Portland defense on the play?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Week 4 MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

A miserable weather day in New England saw Kelyn Rowe score a pair of goals and, while they all count the same and Rowe is a beaut, both took turns off San Jose players en route to the scoreboard.

Darlington Nagbe had himself a ballgame for Portland, but the Timbers’ losing effort makes it hard to call him the most dominant player of the week. Sporting KC’s Ike Opara scored a goal and had a strong defensive game in the tight confines of Yankee Stadium, but won’t claim the award.source: AP

And while Chris Pontius and Jack McInerney each scored gorgeous goals, it was a former AC Milan man who earns our top honors.

Kaka could take home an award for industry over the first four weeks, as there’s no way the 2007 Ballon d’Or winner is just here for a paycheck. In Orlando City’s 2-2 draw with Montreal, Kaka worked to set-up Pedro Ribeiro’s goal before side-footing home the equalizer.

Throw in the fact that Orlando was down to just four available substitutes due to international duty and injury, and Kaka is the MVP of the week. Well done, sir. We know you’ll find the room on your mantle.

MLS Players of the Week

Week 1: Tyler Deric, Houston Dynamo

Week 2: Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes

Week 3: Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls

Week 4: Kaka, Orlando City SC