Six goals in as many matches make United FC forward Christian Ramirez the hottest player in the North American Soccer League.
Yet a chill has come over the Loons of late. A victory Saturday meant a share of third place in the fall season standings. Instead, a 1-1 draw against FC Edmonton means they are without a victory in three consecutive matches.
An announced crowd of 9,077 fans greeted United in the club's first match at Blaine's National Sports Center Stadium since July 15. Playing without injured regulars Kevin Venegas (defender) and Sammy Ndjock (goalkeeper) only hardened players' resolve to earn a victory and a clean sheet.
They got neither. Minnesota took the lead just one minute after halftime as Ramirez buried a penalty kick. The goal was his 27th in league play, making him the team's career leader in that category.
But Minnesota, which entered Saturday's match with 12 fall season goals allowed, second most in the league, failed to hold. Edmonton's equalizer came in the 71st minute. A charging Lance Laing passed a ball just beyond the reach of United defender Cristiano Dias for Edmonton teammate Tomi Ameobi to tap home.
"We just have dipped in terms of our level and quality after we have a lead, which is, particularly at home, unacceptable," United coach Manny Lagos said. "We need that bite when we're up. We got a little too complacent about how to defend when we had a lead."
Minnesota entered Saturday's match as the league's most potent offensive team (14 goals) and generated three prime scoring chances in the first half.
A deflection of Juliano Vicentini's shot in the 14th minute required Edmonton goalkeeper Matt VanOekel, a former Minnesota player, to leap and push the ball over the crossbar with his fingers.
Ramirez fired diagonally and just missed tucking the ball inside the far post in the 32nd minute. Seven minutes later, Vicentini missed over the top again, this time on a blast.
Edmonton coach Colin Miller said his club was wary of "spells when they have possession of the ball" and acknowledged "we dodged a few bullets."
The narrative changed in the second half after Ramirez scored.
"I thought they were on the wobble," Miller said, urging his players to press as the match wore on. Edmonton's reward came in the form of the Minnesota turnover and midfield that started an Eddie's scoring rush.
"When you play three games in eight or nine days, fatigue starts to kick in a little bit and everybody is a little extra on edge wanting those three points," Ramirez said.