The best player Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath has ever encountered professionally is a 33-year-old Brazilian who spent the past two seasons playing in the lower division.
Ibson is a bit like a hidden gem, apparently.
"Best footballer, arguably full stop," Heath said after practice Tuesday at the National Sports Center in Blaine. "I've worked with some good players, and I've played with some good players. But I think for natural talent and ability, there's certainly not many better than him."
The coach has praised Ibson, who has played in eight games of 11 with six starts so far this season, in the recent past. But now that the midfielder has likely earned a starting spot for the foreseeable future, alongside Sam Cronin in the holding midfield, Heath gushed a bit more about the former North American Soccer League player.
"He makes other players better, I think. Regardless of the situation you find yourself in as a team, he will always want the ball, and that's not easy," Heath said. "One of the reasons we brought him back in the team with the difficult start we had, we needed people who were going to handle the ball, get the ball and make other people play and take that responsibility on. And it's not easy when you're losing games in football, but he has that much confidence in his own ability, He's prepared to take [the ball] probably anywhere on the field."
Heath said Ibson is a "real pleasure" and "joy" to work with, and he's been impressed with how the midfielder has taken coaching to fit into his role in the system.
"We try to keep him within a structure," Heath said. "You know, it's not easy for a Brazilian guy to play a structured role because of the way they play, but I think one of the pleasing aspects for me is the football side was never a worry. The discipline side of staying in a two in the middle of the park and making other people play, but then having that strength and ability when you lose the ball, he's done fantastic at it."
United had a full squad for Tuesday practice for the first time in a while, with left-back Marc Burch participating despite a lingering groin injury even though the team was indoors on turf because of rainy weather.
Forward Abu Danladi was icing his right shoulder after the starters from this past weekend finished a light practice. Heath joked, "I'm not holding my breath that he won't be available for selection at the weekend."
Defender Thomas de Villardi, who had a season-ending surgery on a ruptured Achilles, had his boot off but is still facing a long recovery process. Midfielder Bernardo Anor, who has been on the disabled list with a leg injury since the start of the season, is inching closer to fitness but also still has a long way to go, according to Heath.
Defender Joe Greenspan was the only other absence, still on loan to the United Soccer League's Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
Down memory (White Hart) Lane
After 118 years, English Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur F.C. played its final game at home stadium White Hart Lane on Sunday. Demolition in preparation for a new stadium started the very next day.
Heath recalled fond memories of playing there when his Everton won the league in the 1980s.
"One of my favorite stadiums. Loved it. End of an era," Heath said. "Great stadium. We had a huge game against Spurs and Neville Southall made an incredible save against Mark Falco the year we won the title that probably won us the title because it was us and Spurs, and that took it to five points with us having a game in hand.
"It's a sad day for English football, for me," Heath said, adding there's only a few iconic stadiums like that left in the EPL. "It's a bit like, for you guys, losing Wrigley or Fenway."
Check out the video below for Heath's reflection on the 3-2 loss at Toronto from this past weekend. Heath also said while Kevin Molino playing in that more central role of the attacking four worked well in Canada, he is still looking at what Sunday's opponent LA Galaxy might do and seeing where Danladi, who took Molino's spot on the right and struggled a bit, might be better situated.