Kofi Opare is ready to step up in place of the injured Omar Gonzalez
CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez will not play Sunday in Portland against the Timbers as he recovers from a knee injury and may not been seen again in these parts for quite some time until after the World Cup.
Head coach Bruce Arena isn’t sweating bullets, however, considering he has options for finding a partner with Leonardo in central defense. One is A.J. DeLaGarza, currently at left back in place of the injured Todd Dunivant. DeLaGarza also has seen considerable time in the center of the back line. There also is Tommy Meyer, who has 12 starts to his credit since he was taken 19th overall out of the University of Indiana in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft.
An even more intriguing prospect is Kofi Opare, a native of Ghana taken in the second round of last year’s draft. Opare actually made his presence felt late last year when he started six games, scored his first MLS goal and started both legs of the Western Conference semifinals against Real Salt Lake.
“He’s a better player this year than he was last year,” Arena said of Opare, who also has seen considerable playing time with the club’s new USL PRO team, LA Galaxy II. “It remains to be seen if he’s a player that can play regular minutes.”
Opare came on for the injured Gonzalez last weekend in Colorado and played the second half of the 1-0 loss. If Arena had any misgivings about throwing the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder into the fire again, Opare’s solid performance may have eased any lingering concerns.
“I thought he had a good showing Saturday,” Arena said. “Hopefully we’ll continue to see a little more when Omar disappears for a period of time.”
Opare, who made his official Galaxy debut in last year’s CONCACAF Champions League against Cartagines, said he’ll do everything to make sure he’s prepared if he does get the call again.
“If Omar can’t play and Bruce needs me to step in, I have to make sure I’m ready physically and mentally to help the team and perform well,” Opare said.
The 23-year-old said he was appreciative of the kind words Arena relayed about his play last Saturday and those from his teammates, but he’s far from satisfied. Even last year, when he stepped in and performed admirably late in the season, his surprisingly solid play wasn’t enough to diminish his constant search for improvement.
Ask him how much more confident he is in 2014, and he’ll say he is – to a point.
“To be honest with you, I try to be as positive as possible,” he said. “When I step on the field, I try to tell myself this is what I’ve been doing for a long time. There’s no need to panic or be afraid. I just try to bring that confidence I have off the field on the field.
“I just try and go out there and be myself for the most part.”
DeLaGarza, for one, is confident Opare will do just that.
“Whoever’s in there … Kofi, Tommy, myself, Stefan (Ishizaki), anybody … we’re confident,” he said. “Kofi came in last year and made a name for himself.
“We’re confident he can get the job done.”