When Jason wrote last year's review on D.C. United's defender Kofi Opare, we were examining a player whose impact in his first season with D.C. was based on CONCACAF Champions League games and Open Cup games. In 2015 however, he managed to work his way into the lineup early, in part because of an injury Steve Birnbaum suffered while playing in a March game against Opare's former team, the LA Galaxy.
Opare's performance gave justification to his hold on one of the starting two center back positions, starting 12 of the following 13 games after the Galaxy game, and part of a defense that allowed one goal or less in 11 of them. Opare went on to play in 18 games this year, starting 17 of them, more than his first three years in MLS combined, and scored a goal against Orlando City SC. Like last year, Opare started in all four CONCACAF Champions League matches in 2015-16 Group play, scoring two goals, and started both U.S. Open Cup games, scoring the game winning goal against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
As Rick showed in his statistical analysis earlier this week that looked at Opare, Birnbaum and follow center back (and team captain) Bobby Boswell, Opare was the most accurate passer of the three and is a better and more accurate tackler of attackers, and is better and more active in the air than Boswell, while intercepting the ball as often as Boswell.
At 25 and only four months older than Birnbaum, Opare was on the minimum salary of $60,000, though this will change as the result of a multi-year contract extension he signed in September. While presumably Boswell will constitute one half of the starting center backs, the other half remains to be seen. So while answering the question, the other one I have is at what point in 2016 should a starting center back role be Opare's to lose?