Christian Ramirez isn't bothered by the narratives that surround his career.
He's a battler. He struggled through the ranks. League after league, he's scored and silenced the doubters.
Ramirez is cool with all that. But what he really wants his story to be is a blueprint.
"I want guys that maybe don’t have the normal path to look at me and say, ‘He made it, it’s possible to write your own story.' And just be an inspiration for those guys, Ramirez said of how he wants people to remember his story. "Because so many get lost in the 'I didn’t get an MLS contract, I wasn’t a top draft pick.' They get lost in that whole dilemma and lose confidence in themselves. That’s something that I always carried with me, guys that were in the USL or NASL could look at me say 'He’s made, there’s no reason why I can’t make it.'”
Last January, Ramirez received his first call-up to the U.S. Men's National Team. The striker featured in the January Camp held each year by the USMNT, but was passed over for his first international cap in the friendlies that closed out camp.
What followed in the months after the camp was a series of more firsts for Ramirez. He was traded for the first time in his career. Played his first MLS match for a team other than Minnesota United. And he scored in the first MLS playoff match of his career. And after it all, another call to the USMNT January Camp awaited Ramirez.
This time, he would not be denied his moment in red, white, and blue.
Coming on in the second half against Panama, Ramirez made his first appearance for the national team. Less than five minutes later, he had his first goal. He'd go on to play in the USMNT's second friendly against Costa Rica a few days later before returning to join LAFC's preseason camp on Monday. Fresh off his two international appearances and first USMNT goal, Ramirez took the time to talk about his journey with the national team and what the red, white, and blue jersey and his goal meant to him.
When Did You Find Out You'd Be In The Squad For The Panama Match?
I found out the day of. That was when we had video and right before [Gregg] put the 18 up. I had hints of it before. They asked for what jersey numbers we would like and stuff like that. So I knew that it was a possibility. But I didn’t want to believe it until I was in the locker room and putting on the jersey.
How Did You Prepare Yourself For the Match Knowing You Were One Step Closer To Your Debut?
I told my wife and I told my family. They drove out and my wife flew out with my daughter. I told them I was in the 18, don’t know if I’ll play, but it’s a step better than I was last year. Hopefully, you guys get to see me for the first time with this jersey on, no matter how long. And once that was clear, it really made it easy for me to refocus. I didn’t have that pressure anymore of trying to on the roster. Now I could just get my mind around it that anything that was needed of me in this game, I was willing to do. There’s always a role for guys like that on that national team. I’ve seen it in guys like [Chris] Wondolowski and Alan Gordon, who came onto the national team and were spot starters at times. They filled different roles as subs and stuff like that. It made them have a long career with the national team. If that’s something that is asked of me, I am going to do it willingly because you always want to be a part of representing your country.
What Were You Thinking The First Time You Saw The No. 21 Ramirez USMNT Jersey Hanging In Your Locker?
That it’s real. The whole game I was just trying to envision what it would feel like going in. Let alone, score. But what it would feel like just to step on the field when my name was called and I was going in. I sort of took a moment to myself when I was standing at midfield and I closed my eyes for second. If somebody was able to check my heart rate at that point, it would have been through the roof. So it was pretty wild.
Did Anyone Give You Any Words Of Advice Before You Went In As A Substitute?
Gregg said to me, ‘I need a goal, big man.’ Those were his words. And so, I said, ‘OK.’ That was my response to him. I just said, ‘Alright.’ Luckily, I was able to fulfill that.
Take Us Through The Goal:
We were building up and I sort of saw the play developing where Jonathan Lewis could possibly get isolated. Once he faced up his defender, I knew not to come to him because he was just going to push it by him. In a way, it made it easy on me because all I had to do was time myself and not kill my space in the box. I think there was a play before where we were building up. Nick Lima got down the line, I stopped short and the center back stopped with me, and he was able to cut out that lane. So I knew that they were cheating the cutback. As Jonathan gets into position and he beats that guy, I knew that I had to sort of sell that I was going to cut short again because they were baiting into that. Once I saw the defender hesitate, I knew that the space was there for me. I was just hoping the ball would get across the goalie and the defender.
. First cap— Christian Ramirez (@Chris_Ramirez17) January 28, 2019
Is There Something Special About That Type Of Goal For You?
What’s funny is that somebody asked me, ‘What would you have wanted your first goal to look like for the national team?’ And I told them, ‘Just how it happened.’ I’ve scored a couple of goals in training where we are doing set pieces and the ball just randomly falls to me and I tap it in. And a guy like Michael Bradley would say, ‘If that’s not a Christian Ramirez goal, I don’t know what is.’ So, it’s sort of a reputation that I’m slowly getting where I’m just in the right place at the right time.
A ball falls to me and I have a tap-in from four yards out, those are the best goals to score. It becomes a team goal. Immediately, I gave credit where credit is due in Jonathan Lewis. He made it easy on me in the understanding that we had with each other. It’s always nice when something like that happens.
What Was It Like Playing For The USMNT With Your LAFC Teammate Walker Zimmerman?
It’s a good feeling where you’re comfortable having a guy here that you see week in and week out. And see him do it well. You’re going through this together and building momentum towards the season. It only builds confidence and more trust between us that we can continue to carry throughout the season.
We Got To See You With Your Family After The Match, What Did That Moment Mean To You?
It was awesome. I think the picture catches me wiping my eyes because people don’t know that my aunt from Colombia is here. That was the first time she’s watched me play professionally. To be able come on and score, she’s been going through a lot in her personal life with a battle with cancer, so it was so awesome to see here after the game on top of seeing my wife, daughter, and immediate family. That made it even more special.
What's Do You See As Your Role In The USMNT Going Forward?
Anywhere that I’m needed. Honestly, it’s awesome to be in this conversation. And you want to do well for your club to be able to keep yourself in this conversation and fulfill a role that the coaching staff believes you can fill. Especially, with an international tournament coming up this summer. To be honest, anywhere. I’m willing to be a super sub.
Whatever they need of me at the time, I’m there.