It’s all Ike, all the time, around these parts lately, and why not. San Jose Earthquakes defender Ike Opara is making his mark as the captain of the U.S. Men’s National Team U23s as they prepare for the CONCACAF region Olympic qualifying tournament starting later this week. Opara was a fixture with the U20s prior to joining MLS, and if not for a pair of injury-plagued seasons would likely be near the top of the list of young American center backs.
Opara’s success with the U23s in turn whets the appetite for most Earthquakes fans to see the athletic defender back in the mix for a starting position in head coach Frank Yallop’s starting XI. However, the projected duo of Opara and Honduran international Victor Bernardez in a central back pairing for San Jose will have to wait, and may not even be as necessary as once envisioned given the unit’s results to start the MLS season. Without conceding a goal from the run of play in a pair of home games the past two weekends, the Earthquakes rate as one of the most effective defenses in the league.
Still it will be a positive for the team to have a player of Opara’s quality back in the mix, and it is clear that coach Yallop will give the third year defender every opportunity to make the match day line-up upon his return following Olympic qualifying. In the meantime, Opara continues to train in earnest ahead of the group stage games in the qualifying tournament that get underway this weekend in Nashville, TN. And in his off time, he took some time out to talk about camp, his favorite Valentin, and whether he prefers a cowboy hat to cowboy boots. Check out the latest from US Soccer’s Studio 90 and a visit from Ike Opara after the break.