- DOB February 21, 1989
- Age 27
- Place of birth Durham, North Carolina
- POSITION Defender
- HEIGHT 6'2"
- WEIGHT 180
- U.S. CAPS 0
- CLUB San Jose Earthquakes
- TWITTER @ikeopara (6.5K followers)
- Youth Experience U-20, U-23
Nobody moves like Ike Opara. His long gait almost glides along the ground, while his back remains impossibly straight. It's at once supremely athletic and awkward, a combination that's as jarring as it is beautiful. Opara, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and 2009, is far from a finished product, but he'll be a strong candidate for U.S. centerback of the future if he can realize the potential of his physical skills.
The San Jose Earthquakes selected Opara with the third overall pick of the 2010 SuperDraft. He scored a goal in just his second game as a professional but missed most of 2010 and 2011 with a broken foot and other related maladies. But he returned in time to start for Caleb Porter's 2012 Olympic qualifying team in Nashville. "I really like the combination of Perry Kitchen and Ike," Porter said before the tournament. "Perry's a ball winner, very tough, always focused, a great leader and communicator. I think you need a guy next to Perry that can drop off at times. I just thought those two guys together were a great combination. They have good chemistry." That said, Opara struggled in the tournament, looking a step slow and extremely awkward, especially when facing quick attackers.
The next year will be vital for the centerback. He needs to win a starting role on the Earthquakes and use the time to develop his game. If he fails to do so, it's easy to see Opara getting lapped by centerback candidates like Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream (if he hasn't been already).—NOAH DAVIS
Noteworthy ReadsIke Opara's Big Comeback (ESPN.com)
Catching Up with Ike Opara (MLSsoccer.com)