Minnesota United traded longtime star striker Christian Ramirez to MLS expansion team Los Angeles FC in a Monday evening deal that could net United $1 million.
Ramirez, the Loons’ leading scorer from 2017, has been with the club since 2014 in the North American Soccer League and has become a fan favorite, earning the nickname Superman.
LAFC, in its first MLS season, will send United $250,000 in general allocation money in 2018, $250,000 in general allocation money in 2019, $100,000 in targeted allocation money in 2018 and $200,000 in targeted allocation money in 2019.
A league source also confirmed United could garner up to an extra $200,000 of targeted allocation money if Ramirez reaches a set number of goals by the end of the 2019 regular season.
The total isn’t an MLS record deal. Last year’s trade that sent forward Dom Dwyer from Sporting Kansas City to Orlando City SC had the potential to total $1.6 million.
No one from United could be reached for comment.
Ramirez finished with 14 goals in his MLS debut last year, but the 27-year-old had a slower 2018, with seven goals so far. He scored twice in a 5-1 victory over LAFC on July 22. Rumors have circled about Ramirez’s fate for the past several weeks after United signed new designated player Angelo Rodriguez, who plays the same position as Ramirez.
Rodriguez started in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders while Ramirez stayed on the bench.
Ramirez, a Garden Grove, Calif., native, will have the chance to play in front of a hometown crowd regularly for the first time in his professional career. And LAFC, at 10-6-6 for fourth in the Western Conference, is likely a playoff team while United is still fighting for a chance, at 9-13-1 in ninth place.
Ramirez’s place with LAFC isn’t certain. The club has a stacked offense with the likes of Carlos Vela, Marco Urena, Diego Rossi and Latif Blessing. But striker Adama Diomande suffered a hamstring injury in LAFC’s most recent game, which could leave room for Ramirez to debut Saturday.
That doesn’t mean Ramirez’s deal was a short-term fix. LAFC Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager John Thorrington said the club assumed Ramirez’s current contract, which has a base salary of $575,000 and could run through the 2021 season.
Thorrington said he and LAFC coach Bob Bradley saw Ramirez play about a year ago and have been working to acquire him for a while.
In the end, he called the acquisition a “great deal” to gain a proven scorer at Ramirez’s age who has a knack for opportunism in front of the goal and is different from LAFC’s current options, while also needing no adjustment period to the league.
“We have a pretty specific profile of the types of players that we think will help strengthen us. The squad of players here, that’s not an easy task to come in and strengthen the group because we’re very happy with the guys we have,” Thorrington said. “Christian as a player, obviously his statistics speak for themselves. … He’s from Southern California. That’s not an insignificant aspect of this for us as a club.”
Ramirez’s trade gained strong reaction on Twitter shortly after the announcement, with many fans lamenting the move of an adopted hometown hero.
United winger Miguel Ibarra, Batman to Ramirez’s Superman, shared a sendoff on social media to his best friend he was teammates with for years.
“You’ve always and will always be a brother to me no matter where you end up and no matter what happens,” Ibarra wrote. “You will always be someone special to Minnesota. I know the fans hold a special place for you here. I’m sad because you’re leaving, and we’ve always been together. But I’m happy for this new chapter in your life.”
Thorrington said when he spoke to Ramirez after the trade was official, he didn’t sense any unhappiness, just excitement for a new opportunity. Ramirez expressed only gratitude in an Instagram post.
“I hope that I left a lasting impression of passion, smiles, winning and touched the younger generation here in Minnesota to continue to push this great state to levels that it’s yet to reach and will reach,” Ramirez wrote. “I had dreams of never leaving. I never thought this day would come. It still doesn’t seem real. Minnesota became home, my wife and I started a family here and will forever have that in our hearts.”