Andy Greder / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL—Minnesota United must make two changes to the starting lineup before Saturday's game against FC Dallas, and the emergence of newcomer Romario Ibarra could make it three. The Ecuadorian winger's tying goal in the 84th minute helped produce a 2-2 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy last Saturday and his improved fitness over three games with Minnesota bodes well for his first start as a Loon.
MINNEAPOLIS—Attendance at TCF Bank Stadium was up in P.J. Fleck's first season as the University of Minnesota's football coach. Average attendance for the Gophers' home games in 2016, Tracy Claeys' only season as head coach, was 43,813, the lowest since TCF Bank Stadium opened for the 2009 season. That improved by an average of 545 fans a game in 2017, to 44,358, in Fleck's first season in Minnesota.
ST. PAUL — Now that Minnesota United has traded away fan-favorite forward Christian Ramirez, his successor at striker will find himself under the microscope. Angelo Rodriguez, signed to a high-priced Designated Player contract on July 10, will have to prove the Loons front office made the right move and endear himself to supporters heartsick over the Aug. 6 departure of Ramirez, the club's all-time leading scorer and top ambassador since the NASL days.
BLAINE, Minn. — Minnesota United doesn't appear on the cusp of making a transaction before Major League Soccer's summer transfer window closes at midnight Wednesday, Aug. 8. "As of this morning, I don't think anything is happening," United coach Adrian Heath said after the club's outdoor training session at noon Wednesday.
BLAINE, Minn. — Christian Ramirez went to Ethan Finlay's home Monday, Aug. 6, to celebrate the birthday of Finlay and Jerome Thiesson, which they share. It was there that Ramirez received a phone call from Loons sporting director Manny Lagos informing him had been traded to the Los Angeles FC. The players he was surrounded by are his now-former teammates.
BLAINE, Minn.—Minnesota United traded longtime club cornerstone Christian Ramirez to the Los Angeles FC in exchange for up to $1 million on Monday night, Aug. 6, the Loons confirmed. United announced that sending away the highest-scoring player in club history will net Minnesota a guaranteed total of $800,000 from two Major League Soccer funds, with an additional $200,000 to Minnesota if Ramirez meets performance benchmarks with the expansion MLS club across this year and 2019, a source said.
MINNEAPOLIS—Angelo Rodriguez nearly scored his first goal in his debut start in Minnesota United's 2-1 loss to Seattle on Saturday, Aug. 4. The Loons' new designated player had two close calls on headers. He put an Alexi Gomez cross over the crossbar in the 30th minute. On Francisco Calvo's cross in the 43rd, his header bounced off the post. "I come to score goals," Rodriguez said in Spanish through a translator. "Unfortunately, it didn't go in. It hit the post. But that's what I prepare for everyday."
MINNEAPOLIS — Given Minnesota United's awful road form this season, the Loons' last home game before a five-match road trip took on a must-win atmosphere Saturday, Aug. 4, at TCF Bank Stadium. "It's the biggest game of the whole year," captain Francisco Calvo said Friday. The Loons had lifted that added weight over nearly 90 minutes with a 1-0 lead, but a handball call against Miguel Ibarra turned into Seattle's Nicolas Lodieiro slotting in the equalizer on a penalty in the first minute of stoppage time.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Gophers' most-important offensive player can break one of the football program's top records this fall. Redshirt senior running back Rodney Smith has 3,850 all-purpose yards, putting him within striking distance of Darrell Thompson's all-time mark of 5,109 set from 1986-89. If Smith maintains his average of 104 all-purpose yards per game across his first three seasons, he will come just 11 yards short of Thompson's mark. Beyond his three-year rushing average of 935 yards per season, here are some factors in Smith's pursuit of the record:
BLAINE, Minn.—During morning training sessions, midfielder Ethan Finlay often rehabs the reconstructed anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee only a few feet away from healthy Minnesota United teammates. Fellow Loons midfielder Kevin Molino, however, is out of sight during practices, opting to rehab the reconstructed ACL in his left knee—as well as damage to both menisci—with Loons trainers in the afternoons.