CHARLESTON, S.C. – Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath said he wasn't sure if new acquisition Luiz Fernando would be an immediate starter, but he was sure of something else: The 22-year-old is probably going to fanboy over Loons midfielder Ibson.
"Well, I'm sure if he's like every other Brazilian, he'll be over the moon to just get to know him," Heath said.
United on Thursday announced the signing of Fernando — 5-11, 165 pounds — to a loan deal for the 2018 season with a purchase option. Fernando, out of Fluminense FC, is also a native of Rio de Janeiro like the 34-year-old Ibson, who is a bit of a legend back in Brazil after playing with the likes of Neymar and in several top European leagues.
Heath said he's hopeful Ibson will be helpful in Fernando's settling-in process. When Fernando will play for United is dependent on his arrival, which Heath hopes is "sooner rather than later." His Brazilian club just finished its midseason break, so it depends on the midfielder's fitness.
Fernando played 14 matches with Fluminense in 2016-17 plus another 16 games on loan in Slovakia before tearing his right ACL in June 2017.
"He's a proper No. 6 defensive midfield player," Heath said of Fernando. "Physically very gifted, has grown up sort of playing that role as a lot of Brazilian kids do, who sort of gravitate to that position, knows the role inside out, physically has all the tools, has good feet, and we just think he's a great fit for us at his age. We're really excited to get him."
Fernando is the team's fifth addition this offseason with at least one more expected. United starts its season March 3 and must be roster compliant by March 1. That means several decisions are looming, such as whether to keep draft picks Wyatt Omsberg, Carter Manley and Xavier Gomez as well as how to manage international roster slots. United currently has 11 players for eight spots.