By Sporting KC News
You’re a wizard, Peter.
SKC traded defender Ike Opara to Minnesota United late Monday night. SKC will receive 900k in Targeted Allocation Money, with an additional 100k if Minnesota makes the playoffs in 2019. The move left many fans shocked and heartbroken, as Opara had become a mainstay and a fan favorite over the course of his six-year stay. However, the move makes perfect sense for Peter Vermes’s club because SKC has received more than enough money for his services.
Peter Vermes's positive return investment on Opara is quite remarkable. SKC acquired Ike Opara from the San Jose Earthquakes in late 2012 for a 2013 2nd Round Draft Pick (the pick was used on a person who never played in MLS). Opara then went on to win three trophies with SKC, and he was named MLS Defender of the Year in 2017. Opara did all of that for SKC even though his salary surpassed 150k just once, according to the MLSPA. It’s easy to see why Vermes let Opara go at 900k because he knew they make a profit off of Opara.
900k in Targeted Allocation Money is a lot by MLS standards. Very few trades have surpassed that number and for good reason-TAM is valuable. In summary, TAM is used to fit expensive players in MLS’s salary cap (the full uses of TAM can be found here). SKC can use the money from the Opara trade to get multiple high-level TAM players or DPs. The influx of this extra TAM allows the club to have more flexibility when dealing with the salary cap.
Furthermore, It’ll be hard for Opara to live up to the 900k that Minnesota paid. He will be 30 years old by the time the season starts, and he has a long history of injuries. Despite this, Opara reached 2700 minutes in each of the past two seasons, and he won MLS Defender of the Year in 2017. However, he appeared to lose a step and regress in 2018, and Ike Opara is not getting any younger or healthier. He’s also not getting any cheaper because Jeff Carlisle revealed in December that Opara wanted a raise. It’s better for SKC to get the extra TAM and spend money on several different players, rather than spending money on just Opara.
In addition, Peter Vermes was able to trade Opara because SKC already has the replacements for him. The club added La Liga veteran Andreu Fontas midway through 2018, and Hungarian international Botond Barath this offseason. Based on their international pedigrees, it seems that both will be solid MLS starters, even though they barely have any MLS experience. Both players will have to prove themselves in MLS, but they will be given every opportunity to do it.
Sporting KC has done very good business regarding Opara, and it appears that the player was content on leaving. Peter Vermes traded one player away in exchange for an extremely large sum of TAM, which can be used to get multiple new players of similar value. Saying goodbye to a player is never easy, but it was the right time and price for SKC. It’s unclear how Opara will perform in Minnesota, but it’s very likely SKC will succeed in spite of and because of this trade.