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Minnesota United winger Romario Ibarra looks ready to make first start

Minnesota United midfielder Romario Ibarra (11) runs during the second half against Los Angeles FC at TCF Bank Stadium in a July game. Ibarra is expected to start his first game with the Loons this week. Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL—Minnesota United must make two changes to the starting lineup before Saturday's game against FC Dallas, and the emergence of newcomer Romario Ibarra could make it three.

The Ecuadorian winger's tying goal in the 84th minute helped produce a 2-2 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy last Saturday and his improved fitness over three games with Minnesota bodes well for his first start as a Loon.

"Romario is getting better," United coach Adrian Heath said Tuesday, Aug. 14. "He's at a situation now where we might think about starting him because his weight is down and his conditioning is a lot better."

Defensive midfielder Collen Warner reached his yellow-card accumulation limit when he was booked in the 75th minute in Los Angeles, and center back and captain Francisco Calvo was booked with yellow cards in the 66th and 89th minutes. Both players will serve mandatory absences in the game at Dallas (12-5-6), the Western Conference leader.

Heath doesn't believe Calvo's yellow card for time wasting was warranted with a tie game in the balance.

"I think he had been warned that anything else he was going to get the boot, so it was disappointing, really," Heath said. "But he didn't want to give him the ball back because actually we had been attacking, and it was a counter-attack. But I still thought it was a little bit harsh. You see that type of thing every week."

With Warner and Calvo out, Minnesota could switch from the 3-5-2 formation the team has used the past nine games. The Loons have 1.44 points per game using that formation, up from 1.06 using primarily Heath's 4-2-3-1 set-up in the first 15 games.

"It could be," Heath said about a possible formation change.

D-mid training

United's pursuit of an international defensive midfielder continued Tuesday with the player training with the Loons in Blaine.

Heath declined to share the player's identity, but if he impresses, the Loons could sign him as soon as this week, a source said.

Although the summer transfer window closed Aug. 8, MLS clubs can sign out-of-contract players through Sept. 14.

Owundi Eko'o on loan

Cameroonian centerback Bertrand Owundi Eko'o has been placed on loan to the Charlotte Independence of the lower-level United Soccer League for the rest of the season, Heath said. He played in the friendly against Costa Rican club Saprissa on July 11 but has not played in an MLS game for Minnesota this year.

Fullback Carter Manley has not played in two August games while on loan with the Las Vegas Lights. United is waiting to see if he gets some action in Wednesday's game versus Orange County before determining if there's another lower-level club that would be a better fit.

Forward Mason Toye started and played 72 minutes for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks on Saturday. He returned to train with the Loons on Tuesday and is expected to rejoin Colorado soon.


Fullback Jerome Thiesson (calf) was training with the first team Tuesday, but Heath said the club is cautious because he has reached this point in his rehab only to have setbacks.