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LAFC 2018 Player Postmortem: Christian Ramirez

Midseason addition put up numbers in limited minutes.

MLS: Knockout Round-Real Salt Lake at Los Angeles FC Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Christian Ramirez was well-known to be on the trading block by Minnesota United this year. Despite putting up good numbers at both NASL and MLS levels and endearing himself to the local fans, there were whispers of sustained friction between him and Loons manager Adrian Heath.

So it wasn’t surprising that he was traded in the summer. What was surprising was the destination, as Los Angeles Football Club swooped in for the striker. Trading for a proven American scorer, it was seen as a good piece of business, even if it cost around $1 million in allocation money to get him, as LAFC strengthened their striker corps and prevented an opponent from snatching him.

Curiously, in spite of the 27-year-old’s track record, and perhaps due to the timing of his arrival in early August and LAFC manager Bob Bradley’s penchant for bringing along newcomers slowly, Ramirez ended up being a reserve for his first few months in black-and-gold.

Ramirez LAFC 2018 statistics

2018 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2018 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS Regular Season 7 3 261 2 0 8 4 0 0
U.S. Open Cup 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
MLS Playoffs 1 0 45 1 0 1 1 0 0
Total 8 3 301 3 0 9 5 0 0

So you can see Ramirez’s numbers are quite good for the low amount of playing time. Three goals in 301 minutes, that’s a neat average of a goal every 100.3 minutes, so he notched a per 90 minutes rate that is a little under 1. That’s good!

It’s a small sample size, however, and it was pretty clear Ramirez was second choice to Adama Diomande once Bradley got serious about trying to get Diomande and Carlos Vela to be on the same page. Plus, all three goals Ramirez scored came against one opponent, Real Salt Lake, two in the 2-0 regular season win and the consolation goal in the playoff loss.

Bradley himself indicated Ramirez was not the finished product, and in his postgame press conference after the final game, seemed to challenge the Garden Grove native to raise his game.

“When he does get his chances, he’s a really good finisher. His finish is fantastic. One of the things I’m on Christian for at times is that... he has a knack for moving in the box, but when the games get better and faster you can’t do it at one speed. You have to change your speeds. You gotta run at different angles.

“I said to him one day, ‘I’m still trying to figure out what kind of striker you are, right?’ If I think about Atlético Madrid, think about Falcao, Diego Costa, and (Juventus forward Mario) Mandzukic. Falcao, when it comes time to move, he doesn’t just float and hope it comes to him. He makes different moves, to go around, cuts back.

“We had a couple of balls that I think if Christian moves in a way, changes his gears, maybe he can get to. I said, ‘You’re not Diego Costa, he has a nasty side, but maybe at some point you can have a nasty side too.’ And Mandzukic just works his [butt] off for the team. If you can be a little more of all three of those guys, that’s the work.”

We know Bradley treasures the opportunity to work with players and improve them, so this doesn’t spell anything definitive for Ramirez moving forward.

But as the 2018 season ended, Ramirez was a spot starter and bench option. LAFC had an abundance of attackers, only one central striker spot on the field, and Diomande was the starter for the season, after pushing out Marco Ureña and refusing to give Ramirez much of a run.

One expects in 2019 Ramirez will get more playing time, both with more time spent working with Bradley and the team, Diomande showing that injuries could be a real issue for him, and the rigors of a long season demanding rotation along the way. And one hopes the competition on this team, something that honestly was not present in Minnesota, will help push him on and stay motivated and hungry to work hard in preparation for his opportunity.

Patrick Stoll called Ramirez “LAFC’s most underrated player” in 2018, and that’s a compelling shout. After starting to get his feet under him this year, we’ll see if Christian Ramirez can really be a big contributor in 2019 for the black-and-gold.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!