ST. PAUL -- Minnesota United’s Miguel Ibarra doesn’t have to look far to see how quickly things can change in MLS. Best friend and teammate Christian Ramirez was traded to Los Angeles FC last August and moved again to Houston Dynamo last month.
Ibarra knows his own future could include a move this offseason. The Loons hold a contract option on the midfielder for the 2020 season.
“That is just up to the team,” Ibarra said Tuesday, Sept. 10. “Right now, my main focus is finishing the season off well and we will go from there.”
Still, fans have wondered on social media why Ibarra’s Minneapolis condo is going on the market. “I’m not going anywhere,” Ibarra tweeted. “Just getting a new place.”
After racking up seven goals and eight assists in 33 games last season, Ibarra had his sights on 10 and 10 this season but through 22 games has one goal — scored March 9 — and two assists.
“If I get my call, I just have to be ready,” Ibarra said. “I know physically I’m ready for anything, so just finishing this year off well and try to make playoffs.”
Ibarra has played once, as a sub, in United’s past four MLS games but could go up against Ramirez for the first time at some point when the Loons (13-9-6) face Houston (9-15-4) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.
There already has been some banter between the duo formerly known as Superman and Batman from their time together in Minnesota.
“He’s messing around saying he’s going to score on us, and I’m saying we are going to beat them,” Ibarra said. That light-hearted trash talk, he added, could carry over to the field.
Ibarra had plans to see Ramirez, his wife and their toddler daughter Tuesday night.
How may absences?
United coach Adrian Heath said a hamstring injury will keep star midfielder Darwin Quintero out of Wednesday’s game, and he might not be the only Loon sitting out the match.
Midfielders Jan Gregus and Kevin Molino had international duties Monday and are traveling back to the U.S. Gregus was a late sub for Slovakia in their European Championship qualifiers against Hungary in Budapest, while Molino scored a goal for Trinidad and Tobago against Martinique in a Concacaf Nations League match in Port of Spain.
While Finnish internationals Robin Lod and Rasmus Schuller returned to training Tuesday, Heath pointed out they had a 14-hour commute after their Euro qualifier against Italy on Sunday.
Midfielder Hassani Dotson and forward Mason Toye played 45 minutes in the U.S. Under-23 team’s 2-0 win over Japan in Chula Vista, Calif., on Monday. Toye scored the first goal for the Americans.
“We’ll sit down, the coaching staff, and have a little look and see if we go for a fresher group than what we consider to be the team we’ve played of late,” Heath said.
That talk will include with Ozzie Alonso, who missed two games with a thigh injury then played through it the 2-0 U.S. Open Cup final loss to Atlanta. Then the Loons’ captain missed their last game, a 2-0 win over LAFC on Sept. 1.
“He’s feeling a lot better,” Heath said. “I think the most important thing is now trying to work out his minutes (Wednesday) night. Does he go the full 90, or do we concentrate on getting a good hour’s work or something out of him and then concentrating on the next couple of games?”
Heath is often willing to say tell reporters how many points he expects the Loons to obtain in a given timeframe. Not on Tuesday.
After Houston, the Loons have a home game against Real Salt Lake (13-11-4) at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Allianz Field. But Heath wouldn’t say if he is aiming for four points (a win and a draw) or six (two wins).
“I think it’s more of going there with the mentality of doing everything we can to get a result,” he said. “I know that if we perform the way we can, and are as disciplined as we can be, we are capable of getting a result.”
A “result” can be a euphemism for a draw, telling because Houston is on a seven-game winless streak and transitioning from fired coach Wimer Cabrera to interim Davy Arnaud.