Christian Ramirez was at teammate Ethan Finlay's place Monday evening for a get together for Finlay and defender Jerome Thiesson's joint birthday party when he received the call informing him he had been traded from longtime club Minnesota United to LAFC.
"That was kind of interesting seeing his reaction to it," said defender Brent Kallman, who was there at that fateful moment. "I think he was a little stunned at first, but I think as he processes it, he's going to see it as a a really good opportunity going forward.
"He also gets some immediate words of encouragement that are probably needed from guys that he obviously respects, and who respect him, too," Kallman said. "It was good for him to be around people when he got the news and not just by himself because I know his wife's out of town right now. So it would [stink] to just be alone in your apartment when you get that news."
The Loons dealt the former North American Soccer League hero to LAFC in a deal that could net the Loons $1 million in allocation money. The outrage from fans was immediate and robust, but coach Adrian Heath said he completely understands that reaction.
“I get why people are disappointed, upset. I'm a football fan myself. I grew up supporting teams, and when you lose one of your players, you're not best pleased," Heath said after practice Tuesday at the National Sports Center. "But we don’t make them decisions for any other reason than we think it's in the best interest of the club moving forward."
Heath said he saw enough from new designated player Angelo Rodriguez, who plays the same forward position as Ramirez, on Saturday in the Loons 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders to know he and playmaker Darwin Quintero would be his attackers moving forward this season. He said if the team had tried to hang on to Ramirez through the season, the deal for him might not have been as good.
The coach also said the development of second-year pro Abu Danladi was also a factor, as the team really likes him and wants to give him the next-most playing time under Rodriguez. Heath also mentioned this being a move to relieve salary cap constraints. The salary cap this year is $4,035,000, and designated player Darwin Quintero should carry the max charge of $504,375 while Rodriguez, who came in during this secondary transfer window, should carry a $252,188 charge. Ramirez's base salary was $575,000, though the club used targeted allocation money to sign him to that pay raise ahead of this season.
Sporting director Manny Lagos, who coached Ramirez back in the NASL days, said this deal is different than an outer-league transfer because the club won't have to share its earnings with the league. And the allocation money allows the clubs to do such things as buy down to cap compliance or trade for new players or international spots. And as far as the $250,000 of general allocation money and $100,000 of targeted allocation money the team receives this year in the deal, United doesn't have to spend that before this transfer window closes Wednesday. Lagos said the club has about a year-and-a-half or three to four transfer windows to spend it.
While Lagos said this influx of cash "may certainly" influence how the last day or so of this transfer window plays out, the team isn't going to rush a signing and is committing to taking the time to address specific needs, like a No. 6 defensive midfielder, throughout the next three to four months.
But both Lagos and Heath affirmed Ramirez's departure wasn't decided as soon as Rodriguez came on board. It just happened to be the right but unpopular decision.
"I felt that we needed something a little bit different for us," Heath said. "We needed that physical presence up the field, which I think Angelo gives us. Christian's an undoubted really good finisher in and around the 18-yard box. That’s undoubted. I've said it numerous occasions. The way we are in the development of this team, we need something else, a little bit more at times. And maybe if this was three years down the road, and we got all the pieces we thought were necessary, maybe you don’t make this trade. But at this moment in time, we felt as though it was the right one."
LAFC general manager John Thorrington said Ramirez's style will fit really well into LAFC's scheme. The California club likes to create a lot of chances and needs an opportunistic striker to finish them off for a goal.
Ramirez was a locker room favorite, and many teammates took to social media just like the fans to express their sadness at Ramirez's departure but excitement for his future. Kallman said both Ramirez and United might walk out of this situation relieved to be done with all the trade rumors and ready to refocus on the rest of the season. And while Kallman said it will be "really weird" to one day play against his good friend – "I really don't want him to score on me" – he does have quite a bit of insider knowledge on Ramirez that will hopefully benefit the Loons.
And in at least one way, Ramirez's departure was a positive turn: He'll no longer hog all the best jersey swaps after games from other stars around the league.
"A lot easier now that Christian's gone. He always got all the good jerseys," Kallman said. "You should take a look at this guy's closet, it's ridiculous."