“A hero can be anyone.” These were the words uttered by the Caped Crusader as he revealed his true identity to Jim Gordon before saving the city of Gotham in The Dark Knight Rises. On Wednesday night against New Mexico United, Miguel Ibarra was not only the hero the Minnesota United faithful needed, but the hero they deserved.
As one of the longest-serving players in the current MNUFC squad, fan-favorite Miguel Ibarra has yearned to be on the score sheet at Allianz Field. As a member of the club in its NASL days and as a player who stuck through growing pains in Minnesota’s first two MLS seasons, a goal in front of the Wonderwall would be more than meaningful for Ibarra. After scoring his first goal of the season in a 3-0 win at San Jose, Ibarra hit a 19-game goal drought which finally came to a resounding end against New Mexico United on Wednesday night.
“I’ve been waiting for it, so just getting out there, getting the goal, was amazing for me,” said Ibarra. “It’s been a couple games that I haven’t scored, so coming back and getting on the scoresheet is big for me.”
Ibarra’s goal in Minnesota’s 6-1 win over New Mexico was a direct reflection of the hard work, selfless play and intelligence of the midfielder.
“I think that’s what I’m known for. Make sure I’m always running 90 minutes, 90-plus minutes,” said Ibarra. “I have to make sure – since day one, since I first got here, that’s what I was known for – I have to continue doing it.”
A 61st minute corner kick from New Mexico led to a skirmish in front of the MNUFC goal where the visitors came inches away from bundling home a second goal on the night. Through some last-ditch defending by the Loons, the ball was cleared into New Mexico’s half where Darwin Quintero applied high pressure to win the loose ball. As Quintero won possession and dribbled down the right flank, Miguel Ibarra immediately saw that there was space for the Loons to start a knifing counterattack.
Ibarra then made a lung-bursting run that began in the Minnesota United penalty area. As Quintero continued to dribble out wide, Ibarra – who was in the center of the pitch – changed the trajectory of his movement, darting out wide.
It’s often said in soccer that the run dictates the pass – the movement you make determines the type of pass that you receive. In this case, Ibarra’s intelligent diagonal run forced New Mexico’s centerback to run with the midfielder, leaving the vacant space wide open for Kevin Molino to receive a through ball. The movement that creates a goal can often be overlooked compared to the finish itself but it’s important to understand just how crucial Ibarra’s run was in Minnesota’s counterattack.
Performing a simple cutback, Quintero spotted Molino wide open and sent a lovely left-footed ball to put the Trinidadian in on goal.
“[I] just make sure I make a run forward,” said Ibarra. “I saw Darwin [Quintero] had the ball and I knew he [would] play it. The centerback went with me and left [Kevin] Molino wide open.”
Quintero’s perfectly weighted ball allowed Molino to take a touch, settle his feet and fire a shot on goal, which was parried away by New Mexico United Goalkeeper Cody Mizell. The save sent the ball right into the path of Miguel Ibarra – who had continued his full-field run after Molino received Quintero’s pass. Ibarra collected the ball on top of the six-yard box and instead of hitting a rushed shot first time, Ibarra took a feinting touch that sent Mizell sprawling the wrong direction. He then coolly passed the ball into the empty net, sending Allianz Field into euphoria, a moment the fans had been craving for their Batman, the hero they deserved.