Only 32 minutes into Minnesota United FC’s friendly with Club Leon on Saturday night, Loons coach Manny Lagos called for the substitution of forward Miguel Ibarra.
Ibarra and Lagos embraced for a brief moment before the player walked to the bench — for the last time in a Loons uniform.
In a game that was part of the contract that sent Ibarra to Club Leon last month, the United and the Mexican first division club tied 1-1.
“This is where I started my career, so just being out here with all the fans and all the support was great,” Ibarra said. “[I was] honored to get the opportunity to play for both teams, as well as play with the Minnesota players again.”
He switched to Club León for the second half. And with the ball on his foot in the 89th minute, Ibarra was all alone in the box with just keeper Mitch Hildebrandt to beat. But Loons defender Brian Kallman caught up and prevented a shot.
“Miguel has been a great servant for this club, and the night tonight was about Minnesota soccer,” Lagos said. “… It was very emotional, and I think that’s what’s special about tonight. It should be special for Miguel, but at the same time, there’s a lot of pride.”
Before the match, Ibarra waved to fans in the crowd and received the largest ovation during lineup introductions. Then United captain Aaron Pitchkolan presented Ibarra with a limited edition poster of a loon and a lion that was designed by a local artist.
Club Leon took a 1-0 lead in the 39th minute on a goal from Luis Montes.
Pablo Campos scored for the United in the 85th minute.
“Miguel had some nice moments that showed everybody, hopefully his new club Leon and certainly our fans what kind of player he’s been in the past and what a great future going forward,” Lagos said.