Injury halted forward’s season early on.
Kwadwo Opoku entered his second season with LAFC in 2021 with tons of promise. After his golazo for the black-and-gold to keep their 2020 Concacaf Champions League campaign alive, it looked like the Ghanaian would get a chance to break through into the regular rotation with Bradley Wright-Phillips’ departure and a stable of possibilities in place to fight to replace him.
Opoku played in each of LAFC’s first four games, notching an assist in the opening-day win over Austin FC, and jumping right into the fray, mixing starts and stints off the bench, which seemed like the right course of action for the youngster. Give him a chance and see what he can do.
Here are Opoku’s MLS statistics in 2021:
Unfortunately, that early promise was snuffed out quickly, as Opoku suffered a knee injury while on loan with Las Vegas Lights FC in the USL Championship in mid-May. The injury required a meniscus repair, with the theoretical possibility he could return for the tail-end of the season, but ultimately that didn’t happen. Whether he had complications or it just needed more time to heal, or he was just put on the shelf for the season to help him get fully healed before returning, that was all we saw of Mahala’s season.
It was a tough blow, because Opoku didn’t play major minutes, but he looked like he could be a contributor this year. I don’t want to say he would have truly broken out and had a monster campaign, but if he played 1,500-2,000 minutes, I would have expected somewhere around five goals and some real growth in his game. Given how close LAFC were to a playoff berth, that may have made the difference! Yes, a playoff berth would not have cured everything that ailed LAFC this year, but the margins of a disaster of a season and a season that still had some potential late on were pretty thin in the end.
I expect Opoku will return for the 2022 season, and I’m eager to see how he does after the surgery. Meniscus surgeries don’t usually limit players in the long run, but obviously long-term injuries can affect players’ trajectories in different ways. Now 20, Opoku looks like a player with real promise, and we’ll see if he can continue to step up when he steps back on the field again.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.