Fabiola Ibarra is good. Damn good. How on earth is that even possible level of good. The Atlas winger is currently tied for the Liga MX Femenil lead in goals with Rayadas center forward Desirée Monsiváis and while the season is still young, it’s one more than she had all of last season and just one less than she had in the 2019 Clausura, her best season to date. She’s dangerous from every area of the field; equally as dangerous from the run of play as she is on set pieces.
It was during that prolific 2019 Clausura that Ibarra first got attention outside of Liga MX Femenil circles with her olímpico goal against Monarcas Morelia.
This season, she repeated the feat in Week 4 against Querétaro.
“Normally the team has a couple of plays that we try on corner kicks,” she told SB Nation by phone later that week. Up 3-0 already thanks in part to Ibarra having scored two goals, Atlas was going to run a specific set piece on that play, “but my teammate didn’t do the movement. Since she didn’t do it and since I like to send crosses close in near range, once she failed to do the movement, I decided to send it near range and try for an olímpico goal and I succeeded.“
Ibarra said she liked the one from this year better, and not because it completed her hat-trick. It was the aesthetics of the goal that pleased her most. The one against Querétaro “was more angled. The one I scored in Estadio Jalisco was more centered, and it was easier for the goalkeeper to get to” she says. “It took (Morelia goalkeeper Maricruz González) by surprise, and that’s why it went over her head. The one last weekend was more complicated because of the angle, and the goalkeeper would have reached it and a defender tried to head it out but failed.”
Ibarra knows the key to Atlas’ success lies beyond just her abilities. “I think our (strength) is the unity the team has,” she says. “Our idea is to have the ball from one side of the field to the other, prioritizing possession. We are a team that won’t stop running from the first minute to the 90th. We fight a lot and never give up up until the referee’s whistle blows.” This attitude currently has Atlas sitting in third place in the table, one point behind current first place América.
Atlas hasn’t always been this successful. Ibarra joined from Tigres after they 2018 Clausura tournament. That season, Atlas finished with a record of two wins, one draw, and eleven losses. Joining with Ibarra for the 2018 Apertura was Ibarra’s Tigres teammate Ana Gaby Paz, ex-Chivas midfielder Zellyka Arce, and Adriana Iturbide. That season Atlas went 8W 5D 3L and made the playoffs, losing in the first round to Tigres. Since then, they added Alison González in the 2019 Clausura and Julissa Dávila in the 2019 Apertura to name a few players. Every season since the 2018 Apertura they’ve made the playoffs, however every playoff has ended with a first round exit.
“I see my team is maturing and yes I think that this could be our season to be able to lift the cup,” Ibarra says. “We have two years together, we know each other and know and understand what our coach wants, and that’s very important. I feel this could be our tournament.”
She’s also bullish on the future of the league as well. “I think that in a few years (Liga MX Femenil) can be a world powerhouse because it has grown so much. I have friends in other countries that I faced in World Cups and the Pan American Games who tell me ‘how cool it is that you have so many people seeing you.’ That they are watching games and hoping to one day play in the league.”
“In other countries the league is making news, and I think it’s improving the level of the players and the team,” she continues. “In a short time it can be a world powerhouse league that can maybe rival leagues like the ones in Spain and in France.” With players like Ibarra, anything seems possible.