Make way, Miguel. There’s another Ibarra coming to Minnesota United.
With the secondary transfer window set to open Tuesday, Minnesota United has already made its first move, announcing Monday that it had signed left winger Romario Ibarra using targeted allocation money. Ibarra comes from Club Deportivo Universidad Catolica in Ecuador’s top division and will be available to play for the Loons once his visa and international transfer certificate clear. He will also occupy an international roster slot.
“We have been looking for some change-of-game pace for the team, and that’s one of the best things Romario does: He changes games with his pace and he challenges defenders,” United coach Adrian Heath said in a team release. “He’s of a great age at 23 and he has had a good start to his career. He has just broken into the Ecuador national team, which is one of the premier national teams in South America. It’s a big step for us, a real investment on behalf of the club, and I am delighted. Can’t wait to get him here. Can’t wait to work with him.”
The 5-9, 160-pound midfielder played twice for Ecuador’s national team in October 2017. In that final round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Ibarra scored the late equalizer against Chile in a 2-1 loss for Ecuador, and then a first-minute goal against Argentina in a 3-1 loss.
Since 2014 at Catolica, Ibarra has scored 16 goals in 131 matches. He made his professional debut with that club in 2011 but also played at Liga de Quito in 2013. His older brother, Renato, plays for Club America in the Mexican top division as well as for the Ecuador national team.
Heath said in the release that Ibarra, with skill and pace on the counterattack, can be a “difference-maker.” Alexi Gomez starts now where Ibarra would play on the left wing. Gomez has played in 11 games with 10 starts this season and is on loan through the year from his Peruvian team, though United has an option to buy. If Romario Ibarra started instead of Gomez, he would likely play across from right winger Miguel Ibarra.
Romario Ibarra is the fourth current player on the Loons’ roster to use targeted allocation money (TAM), which the league provides to each club to sign players who are worth more than the maximum salary cap hit but less than $1.5 million. The team originally signed Rasmus Schuller, Francisco Calvo and Vadim Demidov with TAM ahead of its inaugural 2017 season. Demidov is no longer with the team, but this year, United used TAM also on Maximiano and Christian Ramirez.
MLS made changes to TAM availability before the season by allowing teams to use the $1.2 million allotment for 2018, as well as pull immediately from that same 2019 allotment. Teams also have the ability to use up to $2.8 million of team-funded discretionary TAM for each year.
The Loons (6-11-1), coming off a 3-0 loss at Houston this past Saturday, have an international friendly against Costa Rican club Saprissa on Wednesday before playing host to Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
Wednesday: 7 p.m. vs. Deportivo Saprissa (exhib.) • no TV