Only two years ago, Opara thought of retiring after suffering a ruptured Achilles' tendon that limited him to six games. In 2014, he played only three games after suffering a severe ankle injury. In his first six MLS seasons with San Jose and Sporting KC, he never played more than 18 games.
With Opara in the lineup, Sporting was 12-6-12 in 2017, giving up 23 goals in his 30 games played, an average of 0.77 goals allowed per game. In the four matches without Opara in the lineup, SKC was 0-3-1 record. All 11 shutouts this season came with Opara in the starting lineup.
Opara registered career highs in games played (30), games started (30) and minutes played (2,700). Opara also equaled a career high with three goals in regular-season play, tied for the second most goals by a defender in MLS this season.
Besides Besler, Jimmy Conrad and current Sporting
KC coach Peter Vermes have been named MLS Defender of the Year.
MLS Defenders of the Year:
2017: Ike Opara – Sporting Kansas City
2016: Matt Hedges – FC Dallas
2015: Laurent Ciman – Montreal Impact
2014: Chad Marshall – Seattle Sounders
2013: Jose Goncalves – New England Revolution
2012: Matt Besler – Sporting Kansas City
2011: Omar Gonzalez – LA Galaxy
2010: Jamison Olave – Real Salt Lake
2009: Chad Marshall – Columbus Crew
2008: Chad Marshall – Columbus Crew
2007: Michael Parkhurst – New England Revolution
2006: Bobby Boswell – D.C. United
2005: Jimmy Conrad – Kansas City Wizards
2004: Robin Fraser – Columbus Crew
2003: Carlos Bocanegra – Chicago Fire
2002: Carlos Bocanegra – Chicago Fire
2001: Jeff Agoos – San Jose Earthquakes
2000: Peter Vermes – Kansas City Wizards
1999: Robin Fraser – Los Angeles Galaxy
1998: Lubos Kubik – Chicago Fire
1997: Eddie Pope – D.C. United
1996: John Doyle – San Jose Earthquakes