Minnesota United has brought back two of the club's former stars ahead of its first MLS season, with Miguel Ibarra rejoining the club from Liga MX's Leon and NASL leading scorer Christian Ramirez re-signing with the team for the jump to the top division.
Ibarra, who rose to prominence when he was selected for the U.S. national team by Jurgen Klinsmann while playing with Minnesota in NASL, scored 16 goals and added 11 assists for Minnesota in 93 games, earned league Best XI honors in 2013 and 2014 and won the league's MVP award in 2014. Ibarra was sold to Leon in June 2015 but played sparingly for the club in league games, making just eight Liga MX appearances in 2015-16 and none in the 2016 Apertura. He made 11 appearances in the 2015-16 Copa MX but just one in the 2016 Apertura edition. In all, he scored four goals for Leon, three in Copa MX and one in league play.
“This club has given me everything," Ibarra said in a club statement. "These fans are the absolute best and I cannot wait to put on the Minnesota colors and represent the crest again. I'm happy and excited to be back home and can't wait to get started.”
Ibarra's co-star during his previous stint in Minnesota was Ramirez, who stayed with the team after Ibarra's departure and has also signed a deal to join the squad for the jump to MLS. Ramirez has been the team's leading scorer in each of its past three seasons in the NASL, scoring 51 goals in 90 appearances during that span. Ramirez made the NASL Best XI in each of his three seasons in Minnesota, winning the league's Golden Boot award twice.
“I’m extremely excited about these players,” said MNUFC head coach Adrian Heath. “Christian and Miguel have proven themselves in this market before as both on-field and off-field assets. They wanted to be back here in Minnesota to be a part of what we are doing with this club and in this community. I can’t wait to begin working with each of them.”
Minnesota reportedly had to trade for Ibarra's MLS discovery rights with Portland, with reports stating it acquired them in a deal that sent goalkeeper and expansion draft pick Jeff Attinella to the Timbers. As fate would have it, the two clubs will open the season against one another, with Portland hosting Minnesota in the first game of the 2017 MLS season on March 3.