Boehm: An ode to Ibson, a Brazilian star who found himself in the North

Ibson - Minnesota United - smug grin

Most goals, unfortunately, are single-serving friends – fleeting or workmanlike occasions that tick the scoreboard but don’t live long in the memory, the wellspring of stolid locker-room mantras like “on to the next.”

Others are dense delicacies that demand repeat viewings, analysis, contemplation, even Zapruder-like dissection.

Ibson’s game-winner for Minnesota United vs. Houston last week is the latter.

Take a look at the clip. Maybe twice. Then delve into a slow-motion view. No rush – take as many loops as you need. Go ponder the comical injustice of its modest place in this week’s tally of AT&T Goal of the Week voting. Ruminate on whether his personal hashtag should be spelled #Ibsonity or #Ibsanity.

Pity the misfortune of Dynamo defender Leonardo, alert to the danger of Ibson’s near-post run, close behind as the low cross arrives from Miguel Ibarra, but nonetheless still “posterized” – nutmegged, and on his knees, no less! – by the outlandishly well-timed and well-executed flick.

At some point, you may also want to savor the myriad creative posts that cheekiest of backheels has inspired across the Loons’ social-media channels, powered by not only the sublime skill of the finish, but the perfectly smug, yet spontaneous smile that followed.

“I haven’t seen the other goals, but because of the difficulty of the goal, I think I should win Goal of the Week for sure,” the Brazilian impishly told reporters via translator this week.

“It was meant to be! When Miguel went to cross the ball, I already had an idea of what I was going to do.”

It’s only the second goal of Ibson’s MLS career, and at age 34, it’s anyone’s guess as to how many more he’ll net on these shores. Besides, he’s already starred on some of the soccer world’s biggest stages, winning league titles in Brazil and Portugal and competing in UEFA Champions League, Europa League, Copa Libertadores and the like. He doesn’t seem to have anything left to prove.

But they might just sing his name for years to come in Minnesota.

Boehm: An ode to Ibson, a Brazilian star who found himself in the North -

Ibson with Loons head coach Adrian Heath | USA Today Sports Images

Ibson arrived in the North Star State in 2015, back when the Loons were playing in the NASL, far from sure whether they’d get to make the move to MLS, but ready to grow under the then-new ownership group led by Dr. Bill McGuire.

“We were just looking for different types of players,” Loons sporting director Manny Lagos told this week. “We brought a couple of veteran Brazilians in and another great servant of the club, Tiago Calvano, came to me and said he knows a player that is a big-time player, but really looking for something different.”

After wandering the earth in pursuit of his footballing fortunes from Flamengo to Porto to Spartak Moscow to Bologna, back home for stints with Santos, Flamengo again, Corinthians and Sport Recife, Ibson was seeking a more stable, less stressful environment for his spouse and children.

“Money wasn’t as important at the time to Ibson, maybe, in terms of his market value as much as getting somewhere he felt like he could feel good about his family, his kids, and put them somewhere in a new experience,” said Lagos.

Boehm: An ode to Ibson, a Brazilian star who found himself in the North -

Ibson (L), then with Porto, battles Chelsea's Michael Ballack in a 2007 UEFA Champions League match | Action Images

“I didn’t know if it was going to work out. But in the end, I give a lot of credit to the club and our community for showing him that it’s a great place to live, and I give credit to our veteran Brazilians who told him the experience they were having living here, and the type of growth potential the club had.”

If his Loons teammates didn’t know much about the newcomer at first, they soon found out when they visited Brazil during their 2015 preseason.

“For [teammates] to see how recognized he was in Rio, walking down the street,” said Lagos with a chuckle. “We had to have police escorts and horse escorts traveling around the country because of how popular he is there.

“Part of the reason why he lives here is because he wanted a bit more of the quiet lifestyle.”

Nominally a holding or two-way midfielder alongside Rasmus Schuller at the heart of Minnesota’s typical lineup, Ibson approaches the anodyne duties of a No. 6 with a carioca’s flair. He reads and roams to maximize his influence, hunting touches, interceptions and combinations, drawing fouls and occasionally even sneaking into the opposition’s penalty area to wreak further havoc.

“My whole career has always been like this – trying to be a surprise in the box,” he said on Tuesday.

“He certainly isn’t called upon to create and score offensively, but he is such a gifted, skilled player that he’s an incredible problem solver on the field,” said Lagos. “The goal [vs. Houston] just showed a little of the flair and the special qualities he has in the middle of the field that he got to exemplify in the final third.

“His skill level and thought process, how he thinks about things, is off the charts. So it doesn’t surprise me that in that situation he’s able to think so quickly and finish with amazing technical ability.”

A few months after Ibson’s arrival, Minnesota United were awarded their MLS expansion slot, and as with many players on their final NASL rosters, the technical staff had to make a sober assessment of how well he’d keep pace at the next level up.

“There were certain guys that we just felt like would add, and help build this club the right way both on and off the field,” said Lagos, a Twin Cities native who considers Ibson the most skilled player in his community’s long pro soccer history, alongside the old Kicks’ South African NASL star Ace Ntsoelengoe. “Ibson’s just one of those personalities who decided to come here for soccer but also for his family, to be part of the community.”

Some consider him a diver, a dabbler in the dark arts, or a taker of unnecessary risks. And he’s not universally adored across his team’s fanbase – local site FiftyFive.One last year called him “a player who can make you swoon one second and tear out your hair the next.”

Yet MNUFC’s faith in the well-traveled Brazilian has been rewarded.

“He’s shown the club and the guys that come to the club, young or old, how much he loves soccer and how much he loves playing, how much he loves being involved every day,” said Lagos, revealing that Ibson is a “formidable” soccer tennis player whose skill delights his teammates around the training ground. “Showing up, working hard and loving it – really loving it, loving the little moments.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Ibson has started every one of the Loons’ matches so far this season, and sounds ready to keep on trucking as MNUFC count down to the 2019 debut of Allianz Field.

“It’s been pretty manageable for me,” Ibson said this week when asked about his workload. “I’ve been working pretty hard on and off the field, taking care of my body.”

Lately he’s also become a guide and mentor to his talented young countryman Maximiano, helping the newcomer get settled. And should he sustain his personal renaissance, Ibson would provide a welcome thread to the past when United open their gorgeous new stadium.

The adopted Minnesotan, eager to represent.

“He really has enjoyed the soccer side here,” Lagos said. “[And] also being part of this special project in Minnesota.”