From Ghana to The Home Depot Center: Kofi Opare’s journey to MLS

After a globetrotting childhood, second round pick Kofi Opare hopes to settle with the Galaxy

CARSON, Calif. – As a child, Kofi Opare and his family crisscrossed the globe in search of a home and now the defender is hoping to find one in Southern California with the LA Galaxy. 

Born in Ghana, Opare moved to South Africa as a child due to his mother’s work as a physician. His mother’s work would eventually take their family to the United States (New Jersey) and then across the border into Canada (Niagara Falls, Ontario) before he settled at University of Michigan.

WATCH: Opare at MLS Combine

The 22-year-old’s journey brought him to Southern California in January with Opare being selected by the Galaxy with the 24th overall selection in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.

However, that Opare would become a professional soccer player is in large part due to his family’s travels. During his time in South Africa, Opare grew up idolizing cricketers like Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar rather than the professional soccer players. But once he arrived in the United States, he quickly needed to change gears.

“Cricket was my first love. I did watch soccer and play it with my school team, but I didn’t take it as seriously as I took cricket,” said Opare, who was an accomplished batsman. “It wasn’t until I moved to the U.S. that I started focusing on soccer and playing it more. I loved it.”

While his childhood may not have been an orthodox one, the rookie believes that it helped him grow as a person.

“Being around different countries helped shape my perspectives of different cultures and different religions,” said Opare.  “I also believe that it helped me understand the different struggles that people have been going through in all parts of the world and how we can all relate.”

Once Opare arrived in Ann Arbor, Mich., he immediately found a regular place in the Wolverines starting lineup and he held that spot for all four of his seasons with the maize and blue.  During his time with Michigan, the highly touted prospect made a total of 76 appearances, tallying six goals and adding two assists while developing into a dangerous offensive target in the air on set pieces.

In his final season, the coach that recruited him from high school, Steve Burns, resigned from his post with former New England Revolution defender Chaka Daley taking over the reins. Although the defender dealt with a series of injuries in his only season under Daley’s stewardship, the 22-year-old made quite the impression.

“He’s a great person and an outstanding young man.  I’ve got a lot of time for Kofi because I think that he’s a great human being,” said Daley. “He has his work cut out for him [with the Galaxy], but it’s a great environment for him to challenge himself.”

Opare is in for a challenge as he looks to lock down a roster spot in an already deep core of central defenders with the Galaxy that includes U.S. internationals Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza as well as 2012 rookie sensation Tommy Meyer and Brazilian veteran Leonardo. Few expect the rookie to start in his first season, but he is excited for the chance to learn from LA’s talented center backs—especially Gonzalez.

“With Omar Gonzalez, he’s one of the most experienced players on the team and he plays for national team. He definitely has the experience and can guide me or help me with being a pro on and off the field,” said Opare. “Not only with him, but also there are guys like A.J. and Tommy are guys that I can look up to.”

But the rookie admits that he’s not just with the Galaxy to learn, he believes that he has the abilities to make an impact.

“As a center back, I’m a good header of the ball, I love to tackle and get stuck in and I love to throw my body weight around, but I’m also not a defender who will use that as a first resort,” said Opare. “I try to use my ability to read the game and have that solve problems as opposed to being reactionary. I try to be cerebral as a center back and I try to keep the game as simple as possible.”

Now that his journey has led him to The Home Depot Center, Opare is focusing on his new career with the Galaxy.

“I’m just happy to be a part of the LA Galaxy,” said Opare. “Now I just want to contribute any way that I can to this organization.”

Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com