Rough news out of San Jose today for Earthquakes fans: Ike Opara will be shelved for an unknown period of time with a broken foot, cutting short a promising rookie campaign. He apparently suffered the injury during Saturday’s game against Seattle, which is surprising considering he played the full 90 minutes. Perhaps the fact that he was able to finish the game is an indication that the injury is relatively minor. In any case he is scheduled to undergo surgery late this week or early next week.
Opara has been one of the bright spots for the Earthquakes this year. He has been starting regularly after joining the team as the third pick in the draft out of Wake Forest. Despite playing center back, he has been a source of offense for San Jose, as his ability to find the ball on set pieces has seen him score three goals. In the time I’ve watched the team, he has been excellent in the air both offensively and defensively, consistently winning crosses. He’s been a major reason why San Jose has allowed relatively few goals lately despite large deficits of ball possession.
There are still about three months left in the regular season, so there is still a good chance that Opara can return before the conclusion of the season. However, considering the form he has shown, this is a tough blow for San Jose's playoff chances. Opara had started 10 of 16 league matches and had started in each of the last six games as he gradually secured a spot in Frank Yallop's starting 11. With Opara out and Steve Beitashour still shelved with a broken hand, Chris Leitch and perhaps Justin Morrow will have to step up to fill the void and try to keep the Quakes moving towards the playoffs.