Sporting Kansas City defender Ike Opara was selected to the U.S. Men’s National Team for the first time on Monday to participate in January Camp from Jan. 10-28 at the National Training Center in Carson, California.
Opara will join a 30-player roster for the annual training camp under U.S. MNT interim head coach Dave Sarachan. The 19-day program will conclude with an international friendly as the United States faces Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday, Jan. 28, at StubHub Center in Carson (8:30 p.m. CT, FS1 and UniMas).
“Rather than giving the traditional and obligatory quote about how happy and honored I am to be called in to National Team camp — which I of course am — I will instead say that this is a culmination of a lot of work and support from many people,” Opara said. “But I deserve this opportunity and will not take it for granted. Several variables, people and situations have fueled me in my career, and I have motivation to showcase even more of what I can do on the field.”
Opara’s first inclusion at the senior international level comes after the center back earned 2017 MLS Defender of the Year honors in his fifth season with Sporting Kansas City. The 28-year-old spearheaded a dominant defense that conceded just 29 goals throughout the regular season, eight fewer than any other team. Opara set MLS career-highs in starts (30) and minutes played (2,700) while also scoring four goals in all competitions.
In addition to being named the best player at his position, Opara landed MLS Best XI honors for the first time in his eight-year professional career. Sporting KC posted a 0.73 goals against average and 14 shutouts in the 36 matches he played across all competitions. Opara helped lead the club to the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title and a seventh consecutive appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Since joining Sporting KC ahead of the 2013 campaign, Opara has started 84 of 100 appearances in all competitions, tallying 12 goals and three assists. His banner season in 2017 came after he missed most of 2014 and 2015 with long-term injuries.
On the international stage, Opara first represented the United States at the U-20 level in 2008. He then competed at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt, starting all three games, and made eight total starts for the U.S. U-20s in 2009. In 2012, Opara joined the U.S. U-23 roster for the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where he started all three group stage matches.
Opara is one of 15 players on the U.S. roster hoping to make his MNT debut. He adds to a strong MLS contingency, as 28 of the 30 players ply their club trade in Major League Soccer.
U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; Caps/Goals)
GOALKEEPERS (4): Alex Bono (Toronto FC/CAN; 0/0), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland/DEN; 4/0), Cody Cropper (New England Revolution; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (9): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC/CAN; 3/0), Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City; 0/0), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/CAN; 0/0), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire; 1/0), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles Football Club; 1/0)
MIDFIELDERS (11): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 1/0), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 15/2), Russell Canouse (D.C. United; 0/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC/CAN; 0/0), Marlon Hairston (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Ian Harkes (D.C. United; 0/0), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 1/0), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution; 3/1), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 2/0), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy; 37/6)
FORWARDS (6): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution; 27/3), Dom Dwyer (Orlando City SC; 4/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 24/5), Christian Ramirez (Minnesota United FC; 0/0), Rubio Rubin (Unattached; 4/0), C.J. Sapong (Philadelphia Union; 3/0)