Gringo Report: US-born Barcelona defender eyes MLS
GUADALAJARA, Mexico – The name Miguel Ibarra is not widely known in US soccer circles, but down in Ecuador it is.
The 27-year-old New Yorker has been a consistent performer for a few years now in the Ecuadorean first division, operating as an attacking fullback with a fierce right foot. If he gets his way, he may one day gain a little more notoriety up north, too.
“The idea is to play outside of Ecuador,” Ibarra told MLSsoccer.com over the phone from Ecuador, echoing the sentiments of many players in South America. “The MLS interests me. And I wouldn’t take up a foreigner’s spot.”
The right back currently plies his trade at Barcelona Sporting Club in Ecuador’s top division, where he is on loan from Universidad Católica. With the South American league now in a three-week break, Ibarra’s Barcelona sit in second position, only one point behind Liga de Loja with five games remaining.
It’s not been the easiest season for Ibarra, though, after complications negotiating the loan deal from Universidad Católica left him sidelined for the start of the Ecuadorean season. He has only featured in five games, but is hoping that he will be back as a regular after the mini-break.
“It took time to get into rhythm, but now I’m feeling good,” he said.
Ibarra was born in the United States, but left when he was around three years old, heading to his parents' native Ecuador, where he worked his way up through the academy at Quito-based Club Deportivo Espoli.
He eventually earned a move to Universidad Católica del Ecuador in early 2010 and his form caught the eye of former Ecuador national team coach Sixto Vizuete. He earned a call-up to the Ecuadorean squad in May 2010 and completed two full games against South Korea and Mexico.
“I’ve played in friendly games, not official games,” explained Ibarra, who said he thoroughly enjoyed the international experience. That means technically he could still suit up for the United States, although he doesn’t see it as something that will happen overnight.
“I’ve been here so long that I think it is very difficult,” confessed Ibarra, before adding that, “if the possibility was there, I’d do it. You can’t discount it.”
Ibarra is familiar with the States from traveling regularly to New York, where his mother resided until last December and he understands English without fluently speaking it. The Red Bulls were his team of choice when he has visited the Big Apple, but back in Ecuador he’s an admirer of the US league in general.
While MLS could be a possibility in the future, for now Ibarra is involved in a battle for that first major piece of silverware in his career and bringing the title back to Barcelona’s home city of Guayaquil, after seven years of domination from Quito-based clubs.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.