Rejoice, you NASL fans, history is repeating itself.
Those good ol’ days of Miguel Ibarra as a No. 10 feeding his best buddy Christian Ramirez for goals are back for at least one game as Minnesota United takes on the Chicago Fire at TCF Bank Stadium in the home opener.
Here's the full lineup:
Tyrone Mears, Michael Boxall, Francisco Calvo, Jerome Thiesson
Rasmus Schuller, Ibson
Ethan Finlay, Ibarra, Sam Nicholson
Bench: Bobby Shuttleworth, Marc Burch, Brent Kallman, Collen Warner, Collin Martin, Harrison Heath, Mason Toye
Coach Adrian Heath said the lineup will function as a 4-2-3-1 in attack and more of a 4-4-2 out of it. He also said he’s planning to use Mason Toye as a super sub to stretch the game in the final 20 minutes or so.
“Miggy’s been disappointed that he hasn’t played,” Heath said. “Now it’s up to him to go and stake a claim.”
Ibarra starts in place of the injured Kevin Molino. Heath said the playmaker is done for the season with his ACL tear in his left knee that is still awaiting surgery once the swelling subsides.
Ibarra called Molino the “go-to guy” while Ramirez said Molino is pretty close to irreplaceable.
“His presence in the locker room, he’s always with a smile on his face bringing good energy,” Ramirez said. “That’s what we’ll miss the most. Obviously his production on the field, but just him in the locker room. He’s a great locker room guy.”
Outside back Jerome Thiesson said the team has already had to overcome the loss of holding midfielder Sam Cronin for an unknown amount of time with a concussion, but the team was able to bounce back from losing that veteran presence. Now the team will have to show against Chicago how it does without another starter and imperative position on that center chain of the lineup.
“It definitely does put more of an eye on me for their defenses knowing that he’s out,” Ramirez said. “So as long as we can get other guys going – like Ethan [Finlay], Sam [Nicholson], Miguel, Abu [Danladi], Mason – as long as we can get those guys going, it will start to take that attention back off, and I’ll take my chances when they come.”
Ramirez said having Ibarra as the No. 10 gives him “more freedom to come in, and [Ibarra] in behind.” Ibarra said while he and Ramirez talked about the possible throwback and how cool it would be, he is happy to contribute in any way possible. The first two games, he came on as a second-half substitute and was an integral part of two goals.
“If that’s my role, I’m just going to go out there and give it all I’ve got with those 20 minutes, 30 minutes I get,” Ibarra said. “So far, my teammates have been telling me that I’ve been a big part for the team to get those three points, so I’m just happy for that.”
It's also the first bench appearances of the season for Harrison Heath and Marc Burch, who both had early season injuries.