Defender Kofi Opare has been named United’s 2017 Defensive MVP for his outstanding play in the Black-and-Red's backline this season. The 27-year-old enjoyed a breakout year in which he recorded career highs in appearances (26), minutes (2,214), goals (2), assists (1), and shots (32). Opare has proven to be a reliable and pragmatic defender with the vision to read attacking threats while also providing United with an aerial target on set pieces.
Opare remained a stalwart for United, combining with center back partner Steve Birnbaum to make more appearances than any other Black-and-Red defenders this season. The 24th pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft has worked his way to the forefront of the starting XI by showing signs of progression each time he steps on the field for head coach Ben Olsen. After not featuring in the first five matches this season, the Ghanaian appeared in all but three since April 8 (26 of 34 matches overall). Opare proved his ability to defend aerial threats by winning 64% of his aerial duels—the third highest percentage in MLS for players with more than 70 aerial duels won this season.
Opare also added a dimension to the Black-and-Red attacking unit with his aerial prowess on set pieces. In his fourth season with United, the defender was second in MLS for headed shots (24) behind the Seattle Sounders’ Clint Dempsey. His talent in the air made him a handful for opposing teams' back lines, with both of his goals and his assist coming from set pieces.
At only 27 years old, Opare still has his best years in front of him, and the coaching staff and fans can look forward to his continued maturation as a player.