Christian Ramirez. Abu Danladi. Mason Toye. Angelo Rodriguez. Luis Amarilla. Kei Kamara. Aaron Schoenfeld. And now Ramón Ábila. Although there are rumors and hints of more to come, with the signing of the 31 year-old Argentinian striker on a one year loan, with an option to buy, from Boca Juniors, Minnesota United have for the moment filled one of their biggest needs for the upcoming season: a goal scoring striker.
Ábila, commonly known as Wanchope after the awkwardly prolific Costa Rican international Paulo Wanchope, comes to Minnesota with a professional career that quite neatly divides in two. After making his professional debut at 19 with his hometown club Instituto AC, Ábila spent six seasons bouncing between the second and third tiers of Argentinian soccer. Then in 2014 he found his form at Huracán AC, helping El Globo win their first title in over 40 years and return to the Argentinian Primera División. After two seasons with Huracán Ábila moved to Brazilian Série A side Cruzeiro and then, in 2018, signed with Boca Juniors. All-in a roughly six year stay in top flight South American soccer.
Averaging just over .5 goals/90 for his career Ábila can be quite prolific even as he has drifted in and out of the starting 11 at Boca Juniors. This in part because he has struggled with injuries the last few seasons. Which is to say that with Ábila the Loons seem to have gotten an erratic striker capable of scoring big goals who became available because he may or may not be nearing the end of his career. Or, exactly what should be expected from what Head Coach Adrian Heath described as an opportunistic signing: “We’ve tried long and hard all offseason to bring in someone with a nose for goal - everyone knows that - and then Ramón became available.”
Typically, at this stage in a team’s development, a signing like Ábila would be for added positional depth and tactical flexibility. But even with Robin Lod proving his potential as a striker last season, Ábila will likely be asked to do more than that. Yet it is hard to know what that more might actually be. With so much instability at the position there is not yet a Heath-prefered MNUFC striker. Ábila, though, does fit a type. “He’s a big strong body,” Heath said of Ábila, “with good technical ability... Good with his back to goal, good at posting up, he’s got good movement in the box, very strong, very aggressive,” nearly echoing the introduction given for Ángelo Rodríguez (“He’s a player who is physical, skilled and knows how to score. He holds up the ball well and is also able to turn and run at defenders”). It is hard to imagine Ábila playing like Ángelo for the simple reason that Darwin Quintero is not Emanuel Reynoso. And although small sample size alerts are necessary, this is now Reynoso’s team. Much has been made of the fact that the Ábila signing would not have happened without the relationships Technical Director Mark Watson developed with Boca Juniors in MNUFC’s pursuit of Reynoso. Much has also been made of the relationship that already exists between Reynoso and Ábila because of their shared history, both coming from Córdoba and playing together at Boca Juniors (and here it does feel like the front office is trying to lure fans into forgetting the chemistry lost between Kevin Molino and Reynoso). But more to the point, this is Reynoso’s team in style and substance. With or without Ike Opara, the expectation is now on Reynoso to be the star. And in that context, Ábila may need to be no more than a great member of the offensive supporting cast. He might be more, but he will probably be that, which might just be what a one-year loan should be.