The heavy air and intermittent drizzle of the training ground reflected the mood of Minnesota United.
Christian Ramirez, a longtime striker and fan-favorite who was enjoyed by his players too, had been traded just over twelve hours before. And now the Loons begin life without him.
United sans Superman is very much by design, though it wasn’t necessarily the plan. “I don’t know if there’s any necessarily ‘right time’ for these types of situations,” said general manager Manny Lagos. “Looking at short and long-term, we want to grow and build the roster and make sure we’re addressing needs on the field that are important. This opportunity came up...you have to listen and that led to the events yesterday.”
Those events saw Ramirez traded to Los Angeles Football Club for a cocktail of allocation money and future incentives. “I think it’s the best option for Chris,” said Lagos of LAFC. “He's from there. We said certainly there’s a feel-good part of this for him and maybe he still considers this home as well. We just felt like, in particular, the amount of allocation money, especially GAM [General Allocation Money], was significant...it’s a valuable asset for us as we build pieces for the future.”
Thus far, the majority of United fans have seen the move as far from “feel-good,” especially as the Loons continue to display a lack of ambition in the summer transfer window. While a role such as Ramirez’s as a fan legend cannot be easily replaced, some of the gaps in the starting eleven can. “That’s not my world to worry about [morale],” said Lagos. “I think the fans, as they look at the transaction and value of what we’ve gotten out of it, [will see] the reality that I think we’re at a point where we have some needs that we have to address over the next three or four months to build and grow.”
“If the rest of the week is like it was yesterday...we’ll see if there’s anything that can be done,” said manager Adrian Heath. “If we have to wait after this window, then we have to wait. We have to make the right decision and not panic.”
Heath reported that morale amongst players, at least, was as expected. “We’ve been through this a million times,” he explained. “You wake up one day and you get transferred or you get traded. Sometimes you don’t wish to, but that’s what it is.”
Defender Brent Kallman, whose time playing with Ramirez dates back to when Minnesota was in the North American Soccer League, said that Ramirez received a call from Lagos revealing the trade while Ramirez was out celebrating the birthdays of teammates Ethan Finlay and Jerome Thiesson.
“I don’t think it was a tough call, because it was an honest call. It was a call talking about the great years here and the growth and again, and I say the same thing over and over again...this is a great story for everybody involved,” said Lagos of the conversation with Ramirez.
With the departure of Ramirez, there are now just three players on the Loons’ roster who played with the team’s NASL iteration: Kallman, Ibson and Miguel Ibarra. To Lagos, who managed the NASL team for a stretch and later took a position behind the scenes, that’s irrelevant. “When people ask me that question, I don’t even remember the NASL versus MLS,” he said. “They’re not former this or that...they’re just all important and it doesn’t matter their history, only that hopefully it heaped their character content.”
Ramirez was present at the National Sports Center on Tuesday. He was spotted wheeling a bag into the locker room area and later chatting with now former teammates after normal practice.
Reporters were initially denied access to players at Tuesday’s session and told that only Heath and Lagos would be available for the media, which is a violation of MLS media access policy. Megan Ryan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune tweeted about the situation and Kallman was made available for reporters.
To make this clear, the team said no players available. I pressed them on it, informed them it would be against media access policy and reported. They said that was fine with them. And then about half an hour after I tweeted it, the club decided to make Kallman available. https://t.co/cb5KdKW2Dd— Megan Ryan (@theothermegryan) August 7, 2018
A group of back-up players scrimmaged a Twin Cities All-Star Team in front of several youth groups on Tuesday. The All-Star Team wore the uniforms of the NPSL North’s Minneapolis City SC and featured several players from that organization.