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Christian Ramirez says goodbye to Minnesota, heads home to California with LAFC

Minnesota United sold longtime forward Christian Ramirez (21) ro Los Angeles FC for up to $1 million of allocation money. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Earlier this evening, Minnesota United FC issued a press release confirming it sold its all-time leading scorer, Christian Ramirez, to LAFC.

The Loons could recoup as much as a million dollars worth of allocation money, with $800,000 guaranteed, for Ramirez, as first reported by the Star Tribune. MNUFC Sporting Director Manny Lagos will be under some pressure from Loons fans to make use of the return, as Ramirez was a fan favorite in Minnesota.

Since Minnesota joined MLS in 2017, Ramirez has tallied 21 goals across 51 appearances. Prior to that, the forward scored 51 league goals from 2014 to 2016, when the Loons played in the North American Soccer League.

There was little fanfare when Ramirez was first signed by MNUFC ahead of the 2014 season. The Santa Ana, Calif., native was brought in to back up incumbent starting forward Pablo Campos. The latter won both the NASL’s Golden Boot and Golden Ball (MVP) while scoring 20 goals for the San Antonio Scorpions in 2012, and he led the Loons with 13 league goals in 2013.

On March 13, 2014, during a preseason friendly with Pro Player Academy, Campos tore both the ACL and MCL in his left knee, sidelining the Brazilian for most of the 2014 season and opening the door for Ramirez.

Ramirez took the NASL by storm, starting every league game for Minnesota that season. He was chosen as NASL Player of the Month three times en route to scoring 20 goals in just 28 NASL games. Those 20 goals saw Ramirez win the NASL’s Golden Boot by an eight-goal margin and earned him the league’s Young Player of the Year award.

After a mild sophomore swoon, in which Ramirez tallied only 13 goals in 31 games, he reclaimed the Golden Boot with an 18-goal season in 2016 — Minnesota’s last in the then second division.

Ramirez was one of a handful of players that made the jump to MLS with the club, and was the closest thing Minnesota had to a face of the franchise.

Transfer rumors had intensified in recent days. Ahead of Minnesota’s Saturday game against Seattle, Ramirez was seen warming up with longtime teammates Miguel Ibarra and Brent Kallman. Recently-acquired forward Ángelo Rodríguez took Ramirez’s place in the starting XI, though, and was replaced by 2017 first-round SuperDraft pick Abu Danladi in the 69th minute while Ramirez watched from the bench.

In the postgame press conference that followed the Loons’ disappointing 2-1 defeat, head coach Adrian Heath noted Rodríguez’s strength and said, “He’ll give us a presence up there, which is, I think, sometimes what we’ve needed.”

Asked if he expected any movement in or out ahead of the end of the summer transfer window, Heath answered, “Let’s hope so. I still think we could do one or two things.”

Tonight, as part of MNUFC’s statement on the move, Heath thanked Ramirez for his services.

“The most important thing is we thank him for what he has done for Minnesota United,” Heath said. “He has been a big part of the growth of this club, and his legacy here will remain intact. He’s been a wonderful player to work with, and I know he will have continued success back home in California. We wish him well.”

Assessing the transaction, Lagos called it a “feel-good story for both sides.”

“You have a young man who became a very good soccer player and launched his professional career with Minnesota United,” Lagos added. “We’re excited that he was a part of some really special years with us in NASL and MLS, and it’s somebody we’ve been very proud to have as a part of our club for years and we are happy to give him an opportunity to go back home to California to continue his career. Moving forward, this benefits us as a club with resources to put toward building for the future.”

Ramirez released a statement of his own, via Instagram:

Minnesota,

Never did I think 5 years ago, I would call Minnesota home. Thank you to everyone involved that helped bring this dream to life, I am forever thankful to everyone! To the fans, I can’t thank you enough for your love and warm welcome from day 1, to the extra motivation you guys provided when things weren’t going well. 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! 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. Again and I can’t say it enough you guys helped me grow as a person and player and will be forever grateful. And of course not to forget my teammates the ones I can call family thank you for everything thank you for being not just teammates but my friends thank you. Dr. Bill [McGuire] can’t thank you enough for saving the club when it was ready to fold and now seeing it grow the way it has you’ve done an amazing job. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the first MLS team.

Thank you,
Christian Ramirez 👋🏼🔇⚽️ #CR21

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