Christian Ramirez had just lofted in Minnesota United’s best chance at a goal about 25 minutes into Saturday’s game against Houston with a floating distance strike. The striker had played his way back into the starting lineup after scoring his first goal of the season a week ago in Seattle, but his comeback was cut short.
About two minutes after that shot, Ramirez pulled up short on an offensive run, dropping to the turf with what Loons coach Adrian Heath confirmed after the 2-1 victory was a right hamstring strain. He came off in the 30th minute in favor of rookie forward Mason Toye, who played the most minutes of his young career.
United has a plethora of injuries at the moment, both short and long term that will certainly affect Saturday’s home game against Vancouver. Attackers Ethan Finlay and Kevin Molino are lost for the season because of torn knee ligaments while midfielder Sam Cronin has been sidelined since preseason because of concussion issues.
Forward Abu Danladi has struggled with hamstring and ankle injuries this season. And outside backs Tyrone Mears and Marc Burch have also missed several games because of respective calf/Achilles’ and knee injuries.
Ramirez had a delayed start with United since he spent the first part of training camp away on his first call-up to the U.S. national team. He then rolled his left ankle in the first game of the season and has started only five of eight games so far.
He has yet to last a full 90 minutes.
Last season’s leading scorer missed four games toward the end of 2017 because of a left hamstring injury, which he said was his first muscle injury of his career. While he was able to end the season as a pretty consistent starter, the injury took a long time for him to recover from, and he didn’t really feel 100 percent healthy for the rest of the year.
Ramirez had said only last week that he wasn’t fully better from his ankle injury. And as Heath said, “hamstrings are never good for anybody. So, we’ll see.”
These key injuries on defense and offense have led the Loons to a minus-5 goal differential, with only 11 for and 16 against. And five of those scores are from players who are injured.
Heath has limited time to add any reinforcements. The transfer window shuts Tuesday and won’t reopen again until July 10.
“We’ll see what we can do. I think this week will be a little bit busy for a few clubs. And if something came about that we thought would help us moving forward, then we might be interested,” Heath said. “If not, we’ll stay with what we’ve got. And we’ll work with the group that we have. And if they work as hard as they’ve done [Saturday], then we’ll get points.”
Those players who are having to step up include new playmaker Darwin Quintero, who already has two goals and an assist in three games. Midfielder Ibson also has two goals, while winger Sam Nicholson has a goal and an assist. Winger Miguel Ibarra leads the team with three assists.
“From last year to this year, my confidence has been boosted a lot,” Ibarra said. “Now losing Ethan and Kevin Molino, it’s just helped me to say I’ve got to step it up and help the team out because I know they have confidence in me. I’ve just got to keep working hard.”
Toye is one of the players with an unexpected opening. Heath called the first-year pro a “project,” but he is the lone forward standing at the moment.
“Obviously, I’m trying to break into the team. It’s unfortunate that Abu and Christian have been out with injuries,” Toye said. “But now I have an opportunity, and I’m going to try to take it.”