The end was a bit more unceremonious than many would have expected. But the dust has settled on Sporting Kansas City’s trade of defender Ike Opara to Minnesota United FC for Targeted Allocation Money. Weeks of speculation ended with Monday’s trade. And on Tuesday, SKC manager Peter Vermes expressed his “disappointment” in how the situation was handled, alongside Opara writing a heartfelt note on social media about his time in Kansas City.
The trade sent Opara to Minnesota and brought $900,000 in TAM (that could swell to $1 million) back to Kansas City. But the move began gaining momentum in late November, just after SKC lost to Portland in the Western Conference semifinals. Opara sat down with Vermes then and asked for a salary increase. Opara’s contract with Kansas City gave him a base pay of just under $325,000.
“At that time, he never asked to be traded to another team,” Vermes said. “He actually stated that he wanted to finish his career here in Kansas City. I had made it very clear to him that we had no interest in trading him.”
At that point, Vermes laid out three possible scenarios for Opara: continue playing in Kansas City and finish out his contract; negotiate with the club to find a financial solution that worked for both sides; or the club could look into trade offers and send Opara elsewhere.
But just after that meeting, reports began to circulate that Opara was looking to be traded. At the MLS Draft earlier in January, Vermes said no team had approached SKC with anything worth consideration and that one offer wasn’t even “a quarter” of Opara’s trade value.
Still, the possibility of Opara being traded was now up for public discussion, and that irked Vermes.
“I was disappointed that it became an issue in the public, which is not something that we do here at the club,” he said. “I was disappointed in that, and unfortunately that kind of threw us into a course of action that I believe didn’t give us a lot of wiggle room at that moment. So, it’s one of the reasons we went the way we went.”
Opara ends his SKC career with 120 starts in 136 appearances, 15 goals and six assists. He won the 2017 MLS Defender of the Year award, which prompted SKC to sign him to a new contract after that season.
The defender spent six years in Kansas City, where he battled back from two season-ending injuries in 2014 and 2015.
On Tuesday, Opara posted a goodbye note on Twitter, with the caption “Now that my face full of tears have dried.” The note included a thank-you to the fans, who made him feel like “overcoming adversity was attainable” with their support.
Now that my face full of tears have dried pic.twitter.com/4MVGWSl4mm
— Ike Opara (@ikeopara) January 29, 2019
“I leave with nothing but fond memories from my time with SKC – memories such as celebrating with the fanbase while lifting multiple trophies during my soccer tenure,” he wrote. “This is the hardest goodbye that I’ve ever had to write, but maybe I’ll see you again soon, Kansas City :)”
Opara’s departure leaves a hole in SKC’s back line, which Opara has co-anchored with Matt Besler since he arrived in Kansas City. In that center back position could be Andreu Fontas, who SKC signed last summer, or Hungarian defender Botond Barath, who joined during the offseason.
SKC will start Concacaf Champions League play Feb. 21 with a home match against Club Deportivo Toluca.
“We are constantly looking to improve our roster, but I do feel comfortable with the group of guys we have,” Vermes said. “I felt more comfortable with Ike being a part of that, but the fact that he’s not here doesn’t change the way that we’re going about getting ready for this upcoming season, and more importantly our first game against Toluca.”