ORLANDO – Christian Ramirez wasn’t about to start his 2018 season injured.
Minnesota United’s leading scorer from last season started last weekend’s opener at San Jose on the bench before coming in for injured Abu Danladi in the first half. While he soon after rolled his left ankle, he played through the injury and made a quick recovery this past week to start at Orlando City on Saturday night.
“I talked about it with [Francisco] Calvo this week. You can see certain places where you do something like this, and they take every precaution to be out two, three, four weeks to make sure you don’t feel any pain,” Ramirez said. “But I’m the type of player that I did the same ankle two years ago, and same thing, a week later I was playing through pain just because I know the team needed me. And hopefully that shows everyone how much it means to me to be out there for the guys.”
Ramirez said he injured his ankle by stepping on the heel of one of the San Jose players, and he immediately “felt something really go.” But the more he played, the more his ankle stiffened, allowing him to stay in the game. While his ankle is still swollen, Ramirez took a few days off practice this week to rest.
Ramirez missed four games toward the end of 2017 because of his first-ever muscle injury and said even once he returned, he didn’t quite feel 100 percent. But as he said, “I’ve got to be out there.”
United doesn’t meet many former players with this being only the team’s second season in MLS, but Saturday there was one familiar foe on Orlando.
Stefano Pinho played for United in its last North American Soccer League season in 2016. He played for Miami FC in 2017, winning the Golden Ball and Golden Boot for the second time in his career.
Pinho, who scored the tying goal for Orlando in last week’s opener, left Saturday’s game on a stretcher in the first half because of an apparent right ankle injury.
• United traveled one more player than made its gameday squad in midfielder Harrison Heath, coach Adrian Heath’s son. The younger Heath is still working back to fitness after recovering from a knee injury, but he’s a former Orlando City player from when his dad was coach and was able to see Orlando City Stadium for the first time.
• Cameroonian defender Bertrand Owundi Eko’o had his paperwork cleared and is eligible to play, though he has yet to join United. He and Brazilian midfielder Luiz Fernando are expected to appear this next week sometime, a team spokesman said. Fernando and Cameroonian midfielder Frantz Pangop, who is with the team already, are still waiting for their paperwork.