ST. PAUL -- Don’t be surprised if Ochocinco is spotted at a Minnesota United game at Allianz Field this summer.
Chad Johnson, the former Pro Bowl receiver nicknamed “Ochocinco,” became friends with Loons midfielder Miguel Ibarra in 2015, and they’ve stayed in touch. The two met on an airline flight to Miami when Ibarra played for the U.S. men’s national team.
They bonded over soccer, and now both can share stories from the pitch. In March, Johnson signed as a forward with Boca Raton (Fla.) for the 2019 season. After an 11-year NFL career, the 41-year-old Miami native is now a part of the semi-pro United Premier Soccer League.
“He loves soccer. He’s a soccer guy,” Ibarra said. “… Before games, he will tell me ‘good luck,’ and I will say the same thing.”
Earlier this year, Johnson asked for a jersey and received Ibarra’s No. 10 in both gray and white. He has since posted photos of him wearing Ibarra’s shirt.
“A special thank you to my good friend @Migue10Ibarra for his @MNUFC jersey,” Johnson wrote before adding three fire emojis.
Schuller to military
Midfielder Rasmus Schuller must fulfill mandatory military service in his native Finland before he turns 29 years old. He will be 28 in June.
“For me, it’s always been ‘I can’t do it now. I can’t do it now,’” Schuller said Wednesday, May 15. “Now, it’s the last time for me to do it.”
The best window for Schuller to complete his military service is this upcoming offseason. He believes the start date for his service is Oct. 14, which would coincide with the first week of the MLS Cup playoffs.
If the playoffs started now, the Loons would be in, and Schuller has been a key player, starting eight of Minnesota’s 11 games.
“I am hoping they will be flexible, and usually they are,” Schuller said. “You can negotiate, so how it falls into my schedule and my season, playing here and also playing with the national team.”
The military service period typically runs from six to 12 months. With Schuller expected to opt for the shorter time frame, he could be out for the first couple of months of the 2020 season.
Starting center back Ike Opara did not participate in Wednesday’s training session. He jogged on the side and then watched team drills. His undisclosed ailment is not considered serious, coach Adrian Heath said, and he should be available to play the Columbus Crew at 7 p.m. Saturday at Allianz Field.
Opara has played in 10 of 11 games this season. He missed the 4-3 loss to Toronto on April 19 after he received seven stitches to his face from a head-to-head collision in the 3-3 draw with New York City on April 13.
Midfielder Jan Gregus exchanged shirts with Chicago defender Bastian Schweinsteiger after the Fire’s 2-0 win over Minnesota on Saturday. Schweinsteiger played for super clubs Manchester United and Bayern Munich, as well as for the German national team.