Late Monday night, Minnesota United announced a move that seemed to have been rumbling beneath the surface since the club’s signing of second designated Ángelo Rodríguez: the departure of one of the club’s longest-tenured players, striker Christian Ramirez.
The team came as somewhat of a surprise when announced.
Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake had both been among the rumored teams in earlier weeks, with nothing coming close according to multiple reports. Los Angeles FC was not a common name, but the Western Conference’s fourth-place team were the ones to strike two days before the MLS transfer window’s closes.
For Ramirez, the move is a chance to play closer to home. He is from Orange County, and the opportunity to play for Los Angeles’ newest team is a great chance. LAFC striker Adama Diomande was injured in their most recent game, and even a part-time chance to play in the West’s most potent attack with 45 goals scored this season could be great for Ramirez personally.
The move comes at a pivotal moment for the Minnesota front office, and the trade return means that this trade can only be judged after the window’s close on Wednesday. Minnesota received $800,000 guaranteed between General Allocation Money (GAM) and Target Allocation Money (TAM), with an additional $200,000 possible.
However, $250,000 in GAM is for 2018, as is $100,000 in TAM. These amounts of money must be used in moves by the end of the second transfer deadline in 2018, which is Wednesday. This means that for this trade to not immediately be a tremendous waste by the front office, Adrian Heath and Manny Lagos must make another move.
From the club’s press release, Heath praised Ramirez’s long tenure and great contributions to the club.
“The most important thing is we thank him for what he has done for Minnesota United,” said Heath. “He has been a big part of the growth of this club and his legacy here will remain intact. He’s been a wonderful player to work with and I know he will have continued success back home in California. We wish him well.”
Ramirez had been with Minnesota for their last three years in the NASL as well as these first two MLS seasons, scored the team’s first MLS goal, and leads the Minnesota United iteration of the team in scoring. He is easily the team’s most identifiable player to long-term fans, and regardless of the move’s possible practicality, his departure will never sit well with many fans.
Many of Ramirez’s teammates wished him well on Twitter after the move was announced, with Miguel Ibarra’s farewell particularly touching. Ibarra and Ramirez have been synonymous with the club for years, as their Batman and Superman nicknames show more clearly than just about anything. Ramirez shared his own farewell on the platform as well.
All the pressure now shifts to Rodriguez, who must perform immediately as the club’s new starting striker to replace a club icon. The pressure is also heavy on Lagos and Heath, who must execute another move before Wednesday to shore up the team. Should they fail and have traded Ramirez away for $350,000 of dead money, that is an exceptionally bad look for the club.
The window closes on Wednesday night at 11:59 p.m. Central time. While there were mere rumblings of suspicion even hours before the Ramirez move, now United must be active. The stakes seem much higher, and when the squad next takes the field on Saturday in Los Angeles, one suspects there will be many heavy hearts.