CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy rookie center back Kofi Opare has enjoyed an striking ascension this season from the 24th overall selection in the Second Round of the 2013 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of Michigan to a starter in a vital CONCACAF Champions League match.
In his first competitive appearance with the Galaxy, the rookie shined as he helped LA keep a shutout in a 2-0 victory over C.S. Cartaginés in the club’s CCL Group 8 opener on Tuesday night. As a rookie making his first start in the always unpredictable CCL, no one would have faulted Opare for needing time to adjust to the hectic pace of CONCACAF, but the 22-year-old looked confident from the opening whistle.
“It felt great being out on the field playing with the guys, I’m just glad we got the result today,” said Opare. “Playing with those guys out there, Omar [Gonzalez] and Todd [Dunivant], Jaime [Penedo] behind me; the game is just so much easier and they instill confidence in me so I just went out there, did my part with their help.”
Defender Sean Franklin noted that helping settle Opare was a major part of LA’s game plan: “That’s our job to help the young players and he did well tonight. He listened, he stepped, he talked, he didn’t look like a rookie out there and that’s nice to have from our young guys.”
The only blotch on Opare’s pristine performance came in the 38th minute when he was issued a yellow card by referee Hector Rodriguez for a soft foul on a Cartaginés attacker. Rather than get frustrated with the booking, Opare admits that he settled down so that he would not draw the ire of Rodriguez again.
Opare’s composure impressed center back Omar Gonzalez, who was making his first appearance alongside the rookie. In fact, the 22-year-old’s showing was quite familiar to Gonzalez’s own style of play as he was able to not only use his physicality to stop attacks, but he also became a threat going forward for set pieces.
“I thought that he did really well. A bit unlucky to get that yellow card, but before and after that, I thought that he did pretty well,” said Gonzalez. “That’s good to see [confidence] from him. He hasn’t played many games and in the first game he plays, he has a lot of confidence. You want to see that from your young guys and it’s definitely good to see him step on the field and play a good game.”
Opare’s test began long before LA’s victory as the defender has impressed during recent weeks with his performances in MLS Reserve League and Guinness International Champions Cup matches as well as in daily training sessions. In recent weeks, it appears that he has even bypassed MLS Cup 2012 starter Tommy Meyer on LA’s depth chart by making the game day roster in the club’s last two league matches.
The last few months have been particularly beneficial for Opare, with Landon Donovan even remarking about the growth that he has enjoyed during the summer.
“Kofi is, from all accounts, been getting better and better. I was gone for a couple of months, but the word is that he’s improved quite a bit,” said Donovan. “I thought that he did well [against Cartaginés]. On a couple of occasions, he made some mistakes that you would expect from a young player, but all in all, a really good performance.”
Following his first competitive start, Opare fielded several texts, calls, tweets and Facebook messages from his family and friends. But the messages from his family were a little extra special.
“My mom texts me after every single game, she tells me what went right and what didn’t go right. She’s like a coach out there,” Opare said with a smile.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com