Tag Archives: Miguel Ibarra

Lucky Loons defuse disaster

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

Saturday, April 28: 2-1 Win

Anyone following Minnesota United’s trajectory over the last month may have felt skeptical going into Saturday night’s match against Houston Dynamo. On the heels of a four-match losing streak culminating with a season-ending injury to midfielder Ethan Finlay, could the Loons defuse a Dynamo squad hungry for a winning streak after a 5-1 result against Toronto FC?

Keeping tabs on the Supporters and their flag-waving for the full 90 minutes was more entertaining than much of the early action on the field. There was tense excitement, with many fearful of the club setting a new record for losses, but thrilled to be welcoming them home.

Bridget McDowell - MNUFC/mlsfemale
Supporter section as seen from press box. Image: Bridget McDowell

Within ten minutes, their worst fear was confirmed.

 

Another defensive lapse. Another early goal. Please, Loons. Not again.

They fought hard to avoid a deeper deficit. Chris Ramirez nearly solved their final-third conundrum with a long-range shot on goal in the 25th minute. Had Joe Willis recovered just a half-step slower, Superman would have notched a golazo. Unfortunately, that was the high point of his game. Ramirez, just five minutes later, with a hamstring injury which will keep him off the pitch for the foreseeable future.

United’s attack showed some urgency then. Just before halftime, Darwin Quintero earned a penalty kick which he buried effortlessly in the upper right corner. It was the DP’s first goal on home turf. And the supporters gave it a warm, exuberant welcome.

After halftime, the rollercoaster continued. Good chances were followed by turnovers which could have proved costly if it weren’t for some patented MNUFC luck. In the 66th minute, keeper Bobby Shuttleworth miraculously saves Manotas’ header, eliciting from the crowd a sigh of relief, mixed with disbelief, that could likely be heard by passengers on the train platform across the street from the stadium.

More disbelief followed minutes later. No one was shocked when the Loons missed any chance of scoring on a set piece (the club’s record on set pieces is a tradition from well back in their NASL tenure). The surprise came when winger Miguel Ibarra collected the ball and crossed it into the box where it met the heel of… Ibson?

 

When coach Adrian Heath was asked during the post-match presser what he thought Ibson was doing in that position, his first reaction was to grin and shake his head. Ibarra responded similarly when he met with the media in the locker room.

Regardless of how he got to that spot, which VAR thankfully confirmed to be on-side (it was close), Ibson now has two goals this season. Sure, both drew cheers of “Goal!… Ibson?” But this crowd only asks so many questions about home goals. Ibson certainly isn’t asking questions either:

This goal broke the streak. It secured three points. It extended Minnesota’s record to 2-1-0 at home, where the club will play four of its next five games. Was it pretty? No. Was it a little frustrating and perplexing at times? Oh, yes. Yes, it was.

But it was a win and Minnesota’s fans will take a win, however, and whenever they can get it. And they’ll certainly take more moments like this, shared with 21,574 of their closest friends:

Featured image of the team walk out courtesy: Bridget McDowell

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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Water dance of Loons snuff out Chicago Fire in opener

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

Saturday, March 17: 2-1 Win

On Saturday night, Minnesota United FC put on a show for the sold-out black and blue and green clad crowd at TCF Bank Stadium, their temporary home on the campus of the U of M. Many feared a repeat of the 2017 home opener, when the Loons made their MLS debut in white-out conditions and gave up six goals, much too easily, to expansion rival Atlanta United. This home opener could not have been more different.

With speedy left winger Miguel Ibarra playing the central-mid role in place of Molino, flanked by Nicholson on his left and Finlay on his right, and communicating telepathically with withdrawn striker Christian Ramirez, the Loons were constantly pressing forward. Behind them, Schuller and Ibson were picking pockets left and right, choosing carefully their opportunities to send the ball forward. It was frustrating to watch that effort come to nothing the first half, especially with Chicago Fire’s attack, led by Nemanja Nikolic, outshooting Minnesota with five shots to two.

A last-second miscue or dispossession would dissolve the Loons’ momentum time after time. But still. They dominated. The shuffled lineup was cause for celebration by fans who were confused up to this point by Heath’s use of the bench. The midfield, in particular, a problem spot all last season and in the season opener in San Jose, earned the glory.

Without Ibson’s ridiculous footwork and dribbling, without Nicholson’s driving shoulder on the wing, without Ibarra’s speed and distribution, without Ramirez’s selfless hold-up plays, without Finlay’s crossing ability…

Ibson notched the first goal when he (for some bizarre reason) found himself on the receiving end of a Finlay cross in the 55th minute. Chicago keeper Sanchez got a glove on Ibson’s first shot but tipped it back his direction. Ibson made good on the second chance.

Chicago drew level at the 59th minute when the Loons’ defense seemed to lose their marks allowing Elliot Collier to rebound on a Nikolic shot and score in his league debut. The draw lit a fire under Minnesota, who all poured forward. Just seven minutes later, Finlay took off down the right wing and crossed the ball into the box meeting Nicholson, who snuck past a Fire line focused on the right wing. The midfielder pounced and launched a header past Sanchez who barely turned his head as the ball whistled past him.

Both sides had chances over the final minutes, but Minnesota’s defense held true and the squad continued pressing forward, refusing to ‘park the bus’, as they say. Instead, they said maybe.

The entire stadium seemed to hold a collective breath through stoppage time. Finally, the whistle sounded and 23,138 people (less the 200 Section 8 fans who traveled from Chicago) belted out Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’ with their scarves held high.

Featured image courtesy: Bridget McDowell

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