US international and Minnesota United FC winger Miguel Ibarra has signed with Liga MX outfit Club Leon, the teams announced Thursday.
Ibarra, 25, has played in the NASL with Minnesota since 2012, and in October 2014 became the first lower-division player to be called up to the US men's national team since 2005. He currently has three caps for the USMNT and was an unused substitute in the team's 2-1 win over Germany on Wednesday.
"Miguel has been a wonderful part of our club for the past several years,” United president Nick Rogers said in a statement released by the club. “He is everything you like to see in a player: he's talented, hard-working and humble. He leads with his actions. He’s also a great person who cares deeply for his friends, his family, his teammates and his club. For all of these reasons, it’s a bittersweet day for us. You hate to say goodbye to a player like this, but the reality is that this deal is a win for the club, for Miguel and for Leon.”
Ibarra leaves Minnesota, who will join MLS as an expansion team in either 2017 or '18, after being named to the NASL Best XI in both 2013 and 2014 and winning the NASL Golden Ball award as the league's MVP in 2014. He posted two goals and two assists through eight games of the 2015 NASL season prior to his departure, contributing to a total of 16 goals and 11 assists in 93 appearances for the club across all competitions.
“I am 100-percent excited for Miguel and the opportunities that he has had over the last several years with our club and the US national team,” said United head coach Manny Lagos in a statement. “He is going to be playing in a great league in Mexico. Miguel has been a huge part of the core of this team’s successes for many years and we feel that we have grown as a club at the same time he has grown as a player.
“It’s important for people to realize we are not a club that’s built with the expectation of developing and selling players – we want to build a great environment and cultivate great players here. At the same time, we have to allow players opportunities to grow that are in the best interest of the player and the club. We want to be a great club and we want our fans to know that this deal opens up opportunities for the club to get more players. I believe our fans know that these relationships we are establishing will pay huge dividends in the future.”
Leon, based in Central Mexico, are looking to bounce back after finishing 17th in the 18-team Clausura 2015 tournament, although they were back-to-back champions in the 2013 Apertura and 2014 Clausura tournaments. He will join USMNT goalkeeper William Yarbrough, also an unused substitute in the team's recent two-game swing in Europe, on La Fiera's roster.
As part of the agreement, Minnesota United and Club León will play an international friendly match on July 18th at National Sports Center Stadium where Ibarra will play one half for each team. He will close out the NASL Spring Season with Minnesota United, playing in his final competitive match with the club this Saturday.