According to Christian Ramirez, his buddy Miguel Ibarra was in a quandary trying to figure out what adding another Ibarra to the roster would do to the back of his shirt.
Ibarra won’t have to change anything, though, as new addition Romario Ibarra will have just “Romario” plastered above his No. 11. The second Ibarra arrived for Minnesota United’s training Monday and could debut as early as 6 p.m. Sunday against the Los Angeles Football Club at TCF Bank Stadium.
“Minnesota United really struck me as a new team in the league that’s trying to do good things. It’s a great challenge for me at this point in my career,” Romario Ibarra said via a translator. “My last game that I played was two months ago, but I am doing really well both physically and mentally, and I feel ready to go 90 minutes whenever the coach feels that that’s best.”
United coach Adrian Heath said in addition to Ibarra being fast, he’s also dynamic in the final third, and his speed out wide will create more space for playmaker Darwin Quintero. Ibarra said as a left winger, he has the technical ability to control the ball and cause opposing defenses trouble while also scoring goals. Heath has already tabbed him for double-digit goals and assists.
Ibarra said he had a lot of interest from other clubs after his call-up to the Ecuador national team this past fall, but an injury delayed any moves. Heath said he knew there were several MLS clubs interested, one even possibly being the New England Revolution, which lost 2-1 to the Loons on Wednesday night.
One of the influences for coming to United, Ibarra said, was Quintero, whom his brother, Renato Ibarra, played with in Mexico at Club America.
“I saw him play there. He’s a really great player, and it means something when a player of that caliber is coming to play for the club,” Romario Ibarra said. “[My brother] said go to him if you need help for anything, lean on him a bit to start. He’s a great player, and he will be there for support.”
While this is Ibarra’s dream to play abroad, he might not fit into the Loons’ current 3-5-2 formation, which uses wingbacks who can play offense and defense. Heath said Ibarra has played through the middle before, but maybe now that there aren’t as many injuries at outside back and winger, he could return to his usual 4-2-3-1 formation, which fits Ibarra well.
Hamm learns as owner
U.S. women’s national team legend Mia Hamm stopped by the United game Wednesday while in town supporting the Schwan’s USA Cup. The two-time Olympic and World Cup champion recalled playing at the National Sports Center in Blaine six times with the U.S. in the span of her career from 1987 to 2004, including scoring her 150th international goal there.
These days, Hamm is part of the ownership group for fellow MLS expansion team LAFC. She said she’s enjoyed starting from nothing and seeing the club grow along with a large and diverse ownership group.
“You can’t sustain by just putting a stadium and building a team. You have to build a culture around our team,” Hamm said. “It’s been, really, a learning experience for me to see how the club continues to grow. And we never claim to know all the answers. So I think one of the great things about MLS is because it’s a single entity, there’s this familiar kind of feeling that everyone wants everyone to succeed. And so we’re learning and talking and sharing ideas with each other.
“In the end, we’re all pulling for one another. We compete on the field, for sure, and people want to win championships, but we want our league to continue to grow and get better.”