Joining a central defender corps that includes two MLS Best XI picks -- one of them Defender of the Year Matt Besler -- poses both a challenge and an opportunity for new arrival Ike Opara.
Opara, acquired by Sporting Kansas City from San Jose on Wednesday, is focusing on the latter. Backing up Besler and Aurelien Collin, he said, gives him a chance to work with the league's top center back tandem every day.
"Those are two good players that you can learn from, see what they're doing on a daily basis," Opara told MLSsoccer.com by phone. "It's a good chance to get better."
And with Sporting in three competitions next year, and Lawrence Olum poised to move into more of a defensive midfield role, there should be plenty of opportunities for Opara to show what he can do as well.
"There will be games to be had," he said. "It's a long season. They've set the foundation, and I just want to be a part of that."
Right back depth?
While Sporting continues to pick up center backs, signing Yann Songo'o on Thursday after trading for Opara a day earlier, depth at right back is still a question mark.
The trade of Michael Harrington to Portland left Sporting without an experienced No. 2 at that position, behind Chance Myers, but manager Peter Vermes said he's confident the spot will be well staffed in 2013.
"We have guys on the club right now, within the roster, who can play in that position," Vermes said in a conference call on Wednesday. "As we move into preseason, we'll continue to evaluate where we are with that, but we're not looking at it as, 'Oh, this is a major hole within our team and we've got to do something.'"
Dwyer in Scotland
Forward Dom Dwyer is back in his native Great Britain -- but the young Englishman is north of the Scottish border, training with Scottish Premier League side St. Mirren.
Dwyer, Sporting's first-round pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, appeared in one regular-season game and one playoff game as a rookie. Vermes said it's possible that Dwyer could be going on loan to St. Mirren to gain playing time -- if the situation is right.
"I would consider it depending on what the parameters of the loan are," Vermes said on Tuesday. "He's over there training, seeing if he also likes it there, and then once he gives me confirmation on where he stands, then we'll see if it's an opportunity. It's not a done deal that there will be a loan done."