Christian Ramirez sat down on the pitch, elbows resting on knees, after he scored only five minutes into Minnesota United’s victory Wednesday.
But unlike the Vikings’ duck, duck, gray duck touchdown celebration from last season, the forward was symbolizing a different variety of the bird.
“I was called a sitting duck by someone,” Ramirez said. “So thought I’d let them know I saw it.”
His fifth goal of the season propelled the Loons to a 2-1 victory against the New England Revolution on Wednesday at TCF Bank Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 27,544. The Loons improved to 8-11-1 for ninth place in the Western Conference, while New England fell to 7-6-7, fifth in the East.
Ramirez had been on a four-game scoring drought, his second-longest such run of the season after it took him six games into the year to score his first. And though the striker scored a team-high 14 goals in 2017, his position on the team had been under scrutiny, especially with new designated player Angelo Rodriguez set to arrive in the coming days.
Ramirez said one of his teammates passed on the “sitting duck” tweet, sent Tuesday from the SB Nation blog dedicated to the team, as well as another tweet from the account that ranked him last of United’s four forwards on the team.
“We actually went to breakfast [Wednesday] so we were talking about it,” said winger Miguel Ibarra, Ramirez’s best friend, of when Ramirez planned the display. “I mean, he does what he always does whenever people are talking. He just likes to prove them wrong.”
Ramirez’s entire family was in town from California to watch him play live for the first time, and he was able to dispel some of those negative opinions with his relatives as witnesses. Center back Brent Kallman won the ball in the midfield that New England’s back line then misplayed. Ramirez was able to latch on to that turnover and volley the ball over the head of New England goalkeeper Matt Turner, who was off his line.
“All he can control is his enthusiasm and his desire and his work rate, and I thought he put an incredible shift in [Wednesday],” coach Adrian Heath said of Ramirez. “He was absolutely gassed at 75 minutes.”
Playmaker Darwin Quintero doubled the score in stoppage time of the first half, picking up Ramirez’s blocked shot in the box and navigating around several New England players before finishing at a tight angle.
The second half didn’t start so smoothly when the Loons gave up a dangerous free kick that goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, playing against his former team, had to save. But then as a New England player was collecting the deflection, winger Alexi Gomez shoved him up high at the edge of the box and drew a penalty. New England midfielder Diego Fagundez scored that in the 52nd minute to bring his team within one.
But despite a fairly sloppy game for United — outshot 17-13, eight to one on corners and gave New England nearly 57 percent possession — the Loons have a chance Sunday night vs. the LAFC to close out a three-games-in-nine-days homestand with all nine points.
And for Ramirez, this might fire up a stand of his own.
“It doesn’t take much for him to get hot,” Kallman said. “So maybe this is the start of something.”