Ike Opara, the No. 3 pick in the 2010 SuperDraft who quickly established himself as a leading Rookie of the Year candidate, suffered a broken left foot in the San Jose Earthquakes’ 1-0 loss to Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday. The break will require surgery to correct and could cost Opara several weeks’ worth of playing time.
Opara, an All-American at Wake Forest who earned a starting spot coming out of training camp, is not expected to undergo surgery until late this week or early next week, and the team offered no official timetable as to when he might return. One team source said similar injuries suffered by other players led to absences of six to eight weeks, but stressed those figures are not based on the specifics of Opara’s break, which was revealed by X-rays taken Monday.
Combine Opara’s injury with the fact that fellow rookie Steven Beitashour suffered a broken right hand during training on Monday – another injury that will require surgery – and San Jose’s roster situation has become dicey. After the release Monday of midfielder Javier Robles and Omar Jasseh’s sabbatical with the Gambia Under-20 National Team, San Jose have only 16 available players heading into their road trip to Colorado on Saturday.
Although it’s expected Beitashour will be able to play with a cast after undergoing surgery, he and Opara are officially out for this weekend, which means the Quakes will most likely have to move Brandon McDonald from his holding center midfield spot to pair with Bobby Burling at center back.
In addition to Opara and Beitashour, right back Chris Leitch is also out, due to a left hip strain suffered against Tottenham two weeks ago, so sliding Jason Hernandez over from right back to the middle seems unlikely. The team could use rookie Justin Morrow, but he has played almost exclusively on the left side for them to this point.
It was not immediately clear when Opara, who has scored three goals this season as a set-piece threat, suffered the injury, since he played all 90 minutes against the Sounders.
Opara went down briefly in the 47th minute without being touched, but that appeared to be more because he was surprised at being struck in the face by the ball after closing late on Fredy Montero – the pass having skipped off Montero’s head and catching Opara flush on the cheek.
Opara did land awkwardly on the play, however, and lay on the ground, hands covering his face, for approximately 15 seconds before being helped up by Bobby Convey.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes