Just when it seemed the most appropriate Oasis song to follow Loons games was not “Wonderwall” but something more like “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” or “Whatever,” Miguel Ibarra started the sequence that made Minnesota soccer history.
Ibarra was once the face of the franchise, back when Allianz Field was more dream than possibility. Sunday, all he had to provide was a well-placed foot.
He entered Minnesota United’s game in the second half after Darwin Quintero left because of a leg injury. Ibarra almost scored on a left-foot rocket that D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid tipped over the crossbar, and had another quality chance. He also took an elbow to the face that left him writhing on Allianz Field’s still-soupy turf.
With the Loons defense turning in a second consecutive shutout — or “clean sheet,” to use the term coach Adrian Heath prefers — Ibarra and his teammates would need only one goal to win for the first time at Allianz.
Ibarra couldn’t finish on Sunday, so he settled for jump-starting the game-winning play.
Osvaldo Alonso led Ibarra down the left flank. Ibarra cut to the middle, found the box crowded and passed far right to Romain Metanire. Instead of driving into open space, Metanire curled a long pass toward the goal.
Angelo Rodriguez drove toward the net. He appeared to slightly deflect the ball into the net and was given credit for the goal, with Metanire getting the assist.
Ibarra has been in Minnesota long enough to know he deserved the hockey assist.
“I thought Ibarra gave them a little lift and a little bit of a different dynamic that gave us trouble,” D.C. coach Ben Olsen said. “It raised their energy.”
Said Heath: “I thought Miggy was great when he came in. I thought he gave us some energy and enthusiasm. Obviously, it’s never easy leaving someone like him out. He gave us something different from what we had on the field before.
“Obviously, another clean sheet, which will please all you lot, stop you writing about it again this week, that’s good, I don’t have to listen to it again all week.”
In terms of atmosphere, goals trump clean sheets. Here were the Loons in their third game at their new jewel box of a stadium, trying for their first victory, and their inability to generate chances — or hope — was in question until Ibarra began testing his sore hamstring.
“I think there’s no reason for me to rush in,” he said. “I’ve had this injury before. I’m making sure I’m patient with it, getting minutes little by little, and so far it’s been feeling pretty well.
“I’m happy with them and I told them I was happy with the decision. The team is playing really well. It’s about pushing the people that are in front of us.”
Ibarra joined Minnesota United in 2012. He was named the North American Soccer League Player of the Year in 2014. He has played for the U.S. national team, and he returned to the Loons when they joined the MLS.
Sunday, he awakened the echoes of his career and gave the Loons a reason to show off their sound system as players hugged and waved to the fans after the game.
“It was amazing,” he said. “I think we’ve been looking forward to this day to hear the fans and the whole stadium sing ‘Wonderwall.’ We’re lucky we were able to win the game today.”
As Ibarra returned to the locker room from the shower, there was a different song playing. Brent Kallman had cranked up his boom box, and as Ibarra dressed, vintage Aerosmith blared.
The song’s title: