Last month, D.C. United center back Steve Birnbaum turned 25 (hooray, Birdbomb!). Birnbaum joined a fellow center back in that club, one whose presence on the field, while fairly anonymous, remains just as impressive, and that's Kofi Opare.
How Opare came to D.C. has been covered before; he was traded from the LA Galaxy, the accompanying move as part of Bruce Arena's failed attempt to acquire midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who went to the New York Red Bulls. But how Opare has played since coming over is worthy of just as much mention, so much so that I'll restate some here; coming on as a fifth minute substitute for Birnbaum against the Galaxy in Week 3 of the 2015 MLS season, Opare's 13 games (12 starts) of D.C.'s next 14 games saw the team allow 1 goal nine times, and clean sheets in three others. Opare was limited to spot duty in 2014 for D.C. (save for CONCACAF Champions League group matches), and in 2015, Opare proved to be a better passer, a accurate, more active tackler, and a better and more active winner of aerials than...Bobby Boswell.
Well, this is awkward. Contractually, Boswell is guaranteed in 2016 and the club holds an option for 2017, and the club seems to be considering a Opare-Birnbaum pairing in 2017, which makes sense for a variety of reasons. Birnbaum as an organizer in the here and now whether Boswell is in place or not should be happening more, but Opare's 2015 makes the case that he should be in the starting XI more, and often, if nothing else to get some more agility and athleticism in back on the field, for a team that will have more speed on it to begin with.
Yet for all that Opare and Birnbaum did separately with Boswell in 2015, Opare and Birnbaum exclusively started one game, a 1-0 shutout win over the Chicago Fire. Sample size and Chicago Fire jokes out of the way, Opare and Birnbaum certainly is worth exploring in detail, as soon as now, particularly if Boswell's form takes even the slightest a dive. Opare's 2015 was so devoid of complaints the votes to bring him back were almost unanimous, and he's earned the love in part because of his work.