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United trades popular forward Christian Ramirez to Los Angeles

Minnesota United forward Christian Ramirez (21) celebrates his goal during the second half against Los Angeles FC last month at TCF Bank Stadium. Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports

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.

The cash breakdown to Minnesota this year is $250,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) and $100,000 in more-meaningful Targeted Allocation Money (TAM). Next year, Minnesota will receive $250,000 in GAM and $200,000 in TAM.

Minnesota United will have about two days to potentially spend some of this haul on other roster needs before the MLS summer transfer window closes Wednesday, Aug. 8. Loons sporting director Manny Lagos will be available in Blaine on Tuesday, Aug. 7, to discuss this deal and their outlook for the rest of the transfer window.

On July 10, the start of this summer transfer window, the Loons acquired forward Angelo Rodriguez, a 29-year-old Colombian forward with the high expectations of a Designated Player contract that is not subjected to MLS budget restraints. He jumped to the top of the depth chart and made his first start for Minnesota on Saturday.

Since 2014, Ramirez endeared himself to Minnesota fans, earning the nickname "Superman" from United supporters as he scored goals in bunches. During the club's era in the lower-level North American Soccer League, he won two Golden Boot awards for being the league's highest scorer in a season and was an ironman with 92 consecutive appearances.

After coming through junior college and the then-third tier United Soccer League, Ramirez often celebrated goals by cupping his hand to his ear, mimicking that he could hear critics telling him he wouldn't be successful.

Ramirez said goodbye Monday night on Instagram, thanking the fans in a long, touching post, adding: "I had dreams of never leaving. I never thought this day would come. It still doesn't seem real. Minnesota became home."

The 27-year old, who received his first call-up to a U.S. men's national team camp in January, scored 74 total goals across five years in Minnesota, including the club's first MLS goal in their debut game against Portland on March 3, 2017.

"The most important thing is we thank him for what he has done for Minnesota United," said Loons head coach Adrian Heath said in a statement. "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."

Moving up with United to MLS last year, the forward proved doubters wrong that he couldn't score in the top domestic league by tallying a team-high 14 goals in 30 games.

But this year, Ramirez came off the bench in the season opener then sprained his ankle and struggled through a long slump in the first half of this season. He rebounded to total seven goals and two assists across 20 games before the trade.

Both Rodriguez and Danladi took the field at the top of Minnesota's attack in the 2-1 loss to Seattle on Saturday. Ramirez remained on the bench after he started the previous 12 games.

Minnesota midfielder Miguel Ibarra, one of their best players this year, sent a fond farewell to his close friend Monday: "... Thank you for helping me be better. Thank you for lifting me up last year one I was ready to quit. You've always and will always be a brother to me no matter where you end up and no matter what happens. You will always be someone special to Minnesota. I know the fans hold a special place for you here."

Ramirez, of Garden Grove, Calif., will now head back to his native Southern California.