The Ike Opara redemption story continues as the Sporting Kansas City defender earned his first call up to the US men’s national team for their January camp that will culminate in a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina on January 28th at the Stub Hub Center in Carson, CA. Opara, who has suffered through injuries for much of his career, and has more than once contemplated retirement due to the injuries, had a break out year in 2017 winning the league’s Defender of the Year award while helping lead the KC defense to the fewest goals allowed in the league (29). Opara set career highs for starts (30) and minutes played (2,700). He also scored three goals in league play and added a fourth in the US Open Cup against Minnesota. It’s a deserved call up for Opara, who acknowledged he deserved this chance himself in Sporting’s press release about the call up.
Opara is joined defensively in camp by three other center backs, who between the four of them have a combined one senior cap. Also called in at center back was Real Salt Lake’s Justin Glad, Vancouver’s Tim Parker, and Los Angeles FC’s Walker Zimmerman (the only one of the four with a cap). He’s also joined in camp by two former teammates, Dom Dwyer, now with Orlando City, and CJ Sapong of Philadelphia were both called up to be part of the forward line for this camp.
No teammates on KC though will be joining Opara in camp, the most surprising of those has to be goalkeeper, Tim Melia, who ran away with the 2017 Goalkeeper of the Year award voting in MLS. National team coach, Dave Sarachan named four goalkeepers to the roster, Alex Bono of Toronto, Cody Cropper of New England, Bill Hamid formerly of DC United, and Zach Steffan of Columbus. The thing working against Melia is the fact that at 31 he seems unlikely to be involved in the USA’s next competitive matches in over a year at the Gold Cup. And with World Cup qualifying for 2022 still years away, the strategy for the US seems more likely to be one that will get younger goalkeepers more time so that they’re ready for that when it comes time. It’s a tough break for Melia who has arguably been the best American goalkeeper over the past year.