KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Ike Opara came back from one season-ending injury only to go down with another.
Then again, maybe not.
A ruptured Achilles tendon is usually enough to take anyone out for a year or more. But Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes doesn't just hope that Opara will be ready to play again in 2015 – barring any unforeseen setbacks, he expects it to happen.
“I told him today that my ultimate goal is that he's going to play this season,” Vermes told reporters on Thursday, during the club's weekly news conference ahead of Saturday's away date at Colorado (8 pm CT, 38 the Spot). “I'm not thinking about him for next season. I'm thinking for this season. I've been told by the doctor that he thinks there's no problem that he should play this season.”
That said, Vermes has no timetable for the big center back's return.
“I don't know when he's going to get on the field to actually play,” he said, “but I would assume that over this next month he's going to have accelerated progression in his rehab.”
Opara, who received his clearance to start running again about a month ago, expressed optimism for a 2015 comeback but stopped short of guaranteeing it.
“It's a hope,” he told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “That's my goal, and if I get there, great. If I don't, I'll be healthy one way or another. If it works in time for the season, great. If not, I'll just make sure I'm getting prepared for whenever that day is.”
Opara, whose 2014 season ended early with a fractured bone in his right ankle, came back in ferocious form this year and had two goals in Sporting's first five games. Then, in the sixth – a scoreless home draw against Real Salt Lake on April 11 – Opara landed awkwardly after contesting an aerial challenge and ruptured his left Achilles.
“Obviously, they were different injuries, but it does get frustrating having to keep up this mental fight and physical fight for therapy, as opposed to being on the field,” he said. “But it's one of those things. I know the course, and I take the ups and the downs and the good, even if it's a small win. That always keeps me in somewhat of a good mind frame, when I can get some kind of positive break.”
Vermes' description of Opara's injury is cringe-inducing, but it does explain why he could return this season when right back Chance Myers took more than a year to return to competition after rupturing his left Achilles in May 2014.
“Where it happened on his Achilles was a big piece of it,” Vermes said. “His Achilles is what snapped in half. It didn't come off the bone or anything like that. The actual injury itself gave him a chance to get back a lot faster.”
And because doctors only had to deal with the tendon, Opara said, the surgery to repair it wasn't as invasive as the procedure done on Myers.
“You try to keep most of your tissues intact, and so I just had one quick fix,” he said. “They didn't really cut me open, like you see with most Achilles tears. So I think that was a big, big, big help, for trying to make it back. I also think that a lot of things have gone on to where I guess I got the luck of the draw when it happened. It could have been worse.”