MN United

A Look Back at Miguel Ibarra's Minnesota United Tenure

Photo credit: Brad Rempel (USA TODAY Sports)

There aren’t many words that can accurately describe Minnesota United supporters’ feelings about Miguel Ibarra, but there’s one that comes to mind:

Beloved.

It’s become even more obvious over the last few months that Ibarra was, is, and always will be very much associated with the birth and emergence of Minnesota as an MLS contender.

The longtime Loon spoke with MLSSoccer.com recently regarding both his departure from Minnesota and the decision to stay in MLS with Seattle Sounders.

Ibarra’s Black & Blue career dates all the way back to United’s “lower league” days, starting more than 80 matches prior to their move to Major League Soccer in 2017. Whether it was in the NASL or MLS, Ibarra had been a premier, vital member of the squad. He started at least 20 games in each of his first five full seasons in a Loons uniform.

But Ibarra’s role saw a dramatic shift in 2019.

The then 29-year old found himself on the pitch for the Loons’ first 21 MLS matches in which he was healthy, plus two of their first four U.S. Open Cup matches.

After mustering only two goals and two assists in all competitions during that span, Ibarra was benched for the final 12 matches of the year, only coming on for 13 minutes in a 1-1 draw vs. Orlando City on Aug. 18.

There are two schools of thought regarding coach Adrian Heath’s decision not to play his beloved winger over the season’s final stretch.

First, the stat-line showed Ibarra wasn’t performing, so Heath’s decision to try different pairings and find more direct goal-scoring impact from that position checks out.

On the other hand, the Loons only scored 11 goals over their final 11 matches, and their late season/playoff slumber can be directly attributed to their lack of offensive productivity. Having an experienced, respected presence on the frontline could have potentially made a difference.

After the 2019 campaign, it became obvious a mutual departure between club and player would be best for both parties. Minnesota decided to decline their contract option with Ibarra, making him a free agent.

During his seven seasons with the Loons, Ibarra created many memorable moments and put together some incredible performances.

Near the end of the offseason, after considering offers to play both in China and Mexico, Ibarra decided to take a trial offer to stay in MLS with Seattle, eventually signing for the 2020 season.

Here are some stats that encapsulate Ibarra’s time in a United uniform:

starts and appearances
  • Ibarra made a total of 189 appearances for Minnesota United (84 in NASL, 105 in MLS)
  • He started all 84 matches he played during his pre-MLS period with the Loons
  • Ibarra started 88 matches during the MLS portion of his United career
GOALS
  • Ibarra scored 24 goals for Minnesota (12 in NASL, 12 in MLS)
  • The first goal came May 6, 2012 in a 2-0 win against the Atlanta Silverbacks
  • Ibarra notched a career high seven goals in the 2018 season
  • His last MNUFC goal came in a 6-1 U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal victory over New Mexico July 11, 2019
  • Of those goals, two turned out to be game-winners in one-goal contests, as Ibarra scored the lone goal in home 1-0 victories over Colorado in 2017 and Vancover in 2018
assists
  • Ibarra tallied 27 assists for the Black & Blue (15 in NASL, 12 in MLS)
  • In addition to his seven goals, he also added a career-high seven assists in 2018

Despite playing for a rival club in the same conference, Loons fans everywhere have expressed their continued support of Ibarra in his new endeavor, and it’s obvious, no matter where his career takes him, he will always be beloved in Minnesota.

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