LA Galaxy Insider Year in Review: Kofi Opare

Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano looks back on the 2013 season for defender Kofi Opare

Now that the 2013 season is over, LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano will look back on the season for every player who was on the club’s roster at some point during the season.

VIEW SCHEDULE HERE

The LA Galaxy Insider Year in Review will begin with players who made the least number of appearances for the club in all official competitions over the course of the year, starting with Brian Perk and Bryan Gaul, who did not make any appearances for the first team this year, and concluding with midfielder Marcelo Sarvas who played in a team-best 42 games for LA this year. There will also be an evaluation of head coach and general manager Bruce Arena and his moves at the conclusion of the list.

We will have one or two evaluations per day and focus on what each player did well and what challenges they faced in 2013 as well as a select thought from the player on their performance and an overall assessment of their season from myself.

Kofi Opare                               

AGE: 23

POSITION: Defender

APPEARANCES IN ALL OFFICIAL COMPETITIONS FOR THE GALAXY:  GP: 10 (Six in MLS  Regular Season, two in MLS Cup Playoffs and two in CONCACAF Champions League); GS: 10 (Six in MLS Regular Season, Two in MLS Cup Playoffs and two in CONCACAF Champions League); G: 1 (in MLS); A: 0

APPEARANCES IN GUINNESS INTERNATIONAL CHAMPIONS CUP: GP: 2

RESERVE LEAGUE APPEARANCES:  GP: 7; GS: 4

HIGHLIGHTS: Kofi Opare began the year as a second round pick from the University of Michigan, but ended it as a regular member of the LA Galaxy starting XI. Fueled by consistent play in MLS Reserve League and a pair of appearances in the Guinness International Champions Cup, Opare cut his teeth at the pro ranks in late August, making his official first team debut in the CONCACAF Champions League opener against Cartagines. The confident showing convinced the Galaxy coaching staff to give the rookie his MLS debut a few weeks later at home against the Colorado Rapids. With Leonardo suffering an injury in late September, Opare was thrust back into the starting lineup against the Portland Timbers on September 29 and held that spot for the remainder of the 2013 MLS campaign. He started each of the final seven MLS matches, including both legs of the Western Conference Semifinals against Real Salt Lake. During that run, Opare tallied the first goal of his professional career, scoring the game-winner in LA’s 1-0 victory over the Montreal Impact on Oct. 16, which also saw him honor his recently deceased friend with a touching tribute.

CHALLENGES:  Opare may have enjoyed a rise from the bottom of the Galaxy’s central defense depth chart to a spot in the starting lineup, but it was not a seamless ascent for the rookie. He began his professional career dealing with a nagging hamstring injury that he suffered during the 2013 MLS Draft Combine. After recovering, Opare needed time to get up to speed in terms of fitness and match preparedness and he did not find himself a part of the first team until August. Throughout his rise from reserve to first team regular, Opare’s primary challenge was his inconsistent passing as he struggled to complete dangerous passes up field. Despite his strong showings at the end of the regular season, Opare struggled in the Galaxy’s Western Conference Semifinal defeat to Real Salt Lake that saw the team crash out of the postseason.  Opare, and the LA defense as a whole, struggled to contain a Salt Lake side that capitalized on a pair of Galaxy defensive lapses.

HIS THOUGHTS:  “It’s been a great experience coming into the team. It’s not [an experience] that was an easy one because there were setbacks, but with the guidance of the players and coaching staff, I was able to develop. …The season was a work in progress. There wasn’t one moment, one game or practice that I felt like Superman or someone completely different. It was just progress as a player that happened over the long stretch.”

OVERVIEW:  No Galaxy player made more of a leap forward in 2013 than Kofi Opare, who was able to blossom from second round draft pick into regular starter in by the end of the season. However as Opare heads into 2014, he’ll need to build upon the foundation that he laid for himself in his rookie year.  Already equipped with the size and mentality that Bruce Arena craves in his center backs, Opare must continue to fine tune his passing ability which was shaky at times in his rookie season. If the big center back can come into preseason camp healthy and fit, there’s no doubt that he could be a regular starter for the Galaxy in 2014.

POLL: How would you rate Kofi Opare’s 2013 season?

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