For defender Ike Opara, the chance to establish himself as a member of the San Jose Earthquakes back line has ended. The former number 3 overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft was traded to Sporting Kansas City for a second round pick in the 2013 draft.
Opara, who made 35 appearances and 22 starts for the Earthquakes in three years in San Jose, recently graduated from Generation adidas status and would have had his salary count against the team’s already strained budget ceiling. Though serviceable as a back-up defender to established centerbacks Victor Bernardez and Jason Hernandez — and even converted fullback Justin Morrow — a projected 2013 salary upwards of $100K was too much for the Earthquakes’ salary cap to absorb.
Injuries plagued Opara’s three year stint in San Jose, as season-ending foot surgeries ended both his 2010 and 2011 campaigns and concussion symptoms limited his availability to contribute at the end of the 2012 season. Extremely talented athletically, Opara was criticized for his positioning and awareness on the field, and he bore the brunt of the blame leveled at the team’s defense in their playoff loss to eventual MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy. The lasting memory of Opara in an Earthquakes uniform will unfortunately be of him blazing a shot well over the crossbar in stoppage time as the team bowed out to rival LA.
In trading Opara to Sporting KC, the Earthquakes acquired a second round pick, the number 33 overall pick, in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. General manager John Doyle and head coach Frank Yallop have made a habit of finding quality in the second round of the draft. Notable picks from the last five seasons include: Shea Salinas (2008), Brad Ring (2009), Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour (2010), Anthony Ampaipitakwong (2011), and Jacob Hustedt (2012).
Opara, along with 2012 selection Sam Garza, are the only first round selections San Jose has signed over the past five drafts. And while it might seem that the Earthquakes have failed to draft well given the productivity of their first round selections, Opara’s draft class also included 2012 MLS All-Stars Morrow and Beitashour. The team’s 2011 first round pick was traded to the Columbus Crew for forward Steven Lenhart. Overall, the Earthquakes have fared well via the MLS SuperDraft.
With the draft pick collected from Sporting KC in exchange for Opara, the Earthquakes will now pick at number 15, number 33, and number 34 in the two-round 2013 MLS SuperDraft being conducted in Indianapolis on January 17.