On Monday, Minnesota United traded goalkeeper Jeff Attinella to Portland. While the club’s press release identified the return as a 2018 natural second-round pick, the club also acquired Miguel Ibarra’s rights.
It turns out, the turnaround on using those rights was a swift one. Sources have confirmed that United and Ibarra’s current club, Liga MX side Club León, have agreed on a transfer fee. The number wasn’t defined, but it’s believed to be lower than what León initially paid for Ibarra. This comes on the same day where head coach Javier Torrente confirmed to the press that Ibarra wouldn’t figure for many minutes.
— Wes (@MnNiceFC) December 20, 2016
Portland initially drafted Ibarra in the 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft and wasn’t signed. He was recommended to Manny Lagos, who signed Ibarra on March 13, 2012. It was in Minnesota where Ibarra developed his game, earning two NASL Best XI nods. Most notably, he was called up to the USMNT in October 2014 and won the NASL Golden Ball the following month.
Minnesota sold Ibarra to Club León for nearly one million dollars (in total compensation) on June 10, 2015. Since then, he’s featured in only eight games for León, scoring once. Ibarra hasn’t been called up to the USMNT since moving to León. Portland secured Ibarra’s rights before the 2016 season as they attempted to bring him in on loan. However, León pulled out of the agreement at the last minute, with his rights remaining with Portland.
With the impending signing of Ramirez, it would give Ibarra a very familiar companion in the attack. Meanwhile, United has already re-signed his former partner on the left side of the pitch (Justin Davis, LB). Given the chemistry Ibarra showed with both Ramirez and Davis, he may be able to easily pick up where he left off: terrorizing defenses.
This wouldn’t be Adrian Heath’s first pursuit of the winger. In October 2014, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Orlando picked up the NASL/USL priority to take Ibarra. The plan was to run him on the opposite wing of Kevin Molino for a dynamic pairing. Instead, United held onto Ibarra for the spring before selling him in the summer. Heath is very familiar with Ibarra’s game and wouldn’t hold reservations after his lack of minutes in León.
Along with individual reunions, this move comes at a great time for player and club alike. Ibarra is clearly out of favor with León and needs a change of pace to reinvigorate his career. Meanwhile, United has signed just eight players to their roster. It’s fair to say that their signings to date have garnered very little national attention. Ibarra was the player who put the Loons on the national soccer map — the first American second-division player called to the USMNT since 2005. Having him in the fold for the club’s first MLS season would add a level of credibility to their roster.
With another year on Ibarra’s contract, initial reactions to the Attinella trade were that Minnesota gave up a potential starting goalkeeper for the rights to negotiate with a player in 2018. However, the club may see the fruits of this trade bloom as quickly as Ibarra’s blistering pace. The final step would be finalizing a contract. It’s safe to assume that this wouldn’t occur before the new year rolls in and the team looks to be holding out for a joint Ramirez/Ibarra announcement. Still, United is getting closer to bringing in the once and future face of the franchise.