As if two consecutive losses didn't make the stakes high enough for Minnesota United in Week 9, their next match Wednesday will be their first against their former striker Darwin Quintero with his new club, the Houston Dynamo (8 p.m. ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the US and DAZN in Canada).
It could be a more confident Dynamo, too, after they won their first match under first-year coach Tab Ramos, a convincing 5-2 road victory on Aug. 25 against Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City.
“Our team is in a good moment and I think we have to keep it going," Ramos said in a pregame press conference. “I watch these guys every day and we work hard every day. There is really nothing we did that surprised me.”
The Loons traded Quintero to Houston in November 2019. “The Scientist” is coming off his best game in an orange shirt, with two goals and two assists against Kansas City.
“This is not surprising. This is who he is. He has that type of ability and I think now he is starting to get his fitness,” Ramos said of Quintero, who turns 33 later this month. “I think he is getting in a groove now. I think he is playing in a good spot where we can make some concessions within the field, where he can be. We are finding him in the right spot."
Highlights: Dynamo crush SKC 5-2
Minnesota will also have to contend with Houston’s transfer window reinforcements, Ariel Lassiter and Wilfried Zahibo, who will be available for selection for the first time. And star winger Alberth Elis, who left the Kansas City match at halftime with an injury, will be available, according to Ramos.
And with injured forward Mauro Manotas coming along more slowly, there could be another former Loon in Ramos' starting XI in Christian Ramirez, who is coming off his first goal, assist and start of the season against SKC. And he may have a point to prove.
"Anyone that knows me knows I don't view myself as just a sub, I think I've proven that," Ramirez said. "I continue to wear that on my shoulder and continue to prove myself in that aspect — that I am an important piece of the team going forward.”
With a key stretch of four matches in 11 days that could very well define the trajectory of their season, Ramos and the Dynamo won’t be hurting for starting XI options.
It's a new-look Dynamo, one veteran Boniek Garcia says is more dynamic than at any other point during his prior eight seasons with the club.
“How quickly we play with the ball starting from the back and the pressure we apply up top," he said. "We’re constantly pressing and always going forward and playing deep [in the attack].”
Said Ramos: "Now we can't rest on our laurels. Now we have to keep going and now we have to play better, because Kansas City [5-2 win], I think is just the beginning. We have to develop that consistency of teams that deserve to go to the playoffs."