After Christian Ramirez signed with Minnesota United four years ago, he showed up in Minneapolis with two suitcases and the dream of making it in professional soccer.
By the time he left Wednesday, traded to the Los Angeles Football Club for as much as $1 million in allocation money, he had a wife, a daughter and a condo to pack up.
“To come into Minnesota and nobody knew my name and now to be traded for $1 million, it’s humbling,” Ramirez said Friday after his first full-team training session with LAFC. “It shows hard work goes a long way.”
So do dreams. And now Ramirez, an Orange County native, is realizing another one by continuing his MLS career at home.
“As a little kid growing up in Garden Grove I always wanted to play in front of my family,” said Ramirez, who had to find tickets for 200 friends and family members when he played his first MLS game in Southern California against the Galaxy last season. “It’s real exciting to be able to play in front of my dad and mom, my siblings. As long as I get my seven [tickets], I’m good.”
Ramirez, 27, could make his LAFC debut Saturday at Banc of California Stadium when his new team meets Sporting Kansas City in a game that figures have a big impact on the Western Conference playoff race.
The teams entered the weekend tied for third place, one point ahead of the Galaxy and one point behind second-place Portland. And both come in scuffling: LAFC (10-6-6) is riding a four-game winless streak, matching its longest, while SKC (10-6-6) has won just one of its last seven.
To complicate things further, LAFC is playing for the third time in seven days, and coming off Wednesday’s loss on penalty kicks in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal in humid Houston. So coach Bob Bradley has promised substantial squad rotation Saturday.
“Certain players we’ll keep out altogether,” he said. “Other guys might be available for less than 90 minutes.”
Out for sure is forward Adama Diomande, the team’s leading scorer in MLS play, who strained a hamstring in last weekend’s loss to the New York Red Bulls. He’s likely to be joined on the sideline by defender Steven Beitashour and forward Latif Blessing, both of whom limped off the field with cramps after playing 120 minutes in Houston.
That figures to open playing time for Ramirez, acquired late Monday in exchange for $800,000 in allocation money spread over the next two years and as much as $200,000 in future allocation funds, depending on performance.
Bradley also said forward Joshua Perez, acquired Wednesday on a free transfer from Italian club Fiorentina, could be available Saturday and that he anticipates giving a start to goalkeeper Luis Lopez soon.
Lopez, the Honduran national team keeper, showed up to LAFC’s first training camp last winter with a stress fracture and has yet to make his MLS debut, leaving Tyler Miller to play every minute in all competition.