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Christian Ramirez talks goals, his two homes and fitting in at LAFC

We talk to the forward in an exclusive interview.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Los Angeles FC Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The capper on the commanding 4-1 win by Los Angeles Football Club over the Seattle Sounders on Sunday was the final goal, scored by Christian Ramirez.

Receiving the ball just in front of Seattle’s 18-yard box, Ramirez hit a backheel pass that went straight to Mark-Anthony Kaye, who settled himself for a moment before sending a pass through the Sounders defense back to Ramirez, making a poacher’s run into the box and coolly finishing past Stefan Frei.

Many people think of soccer as a sport of spontaneous actions building upon other spontaneous actions, but Ramirez told Angels on Parade in an exclusive interview on Thursday that the movements were so often practiced that the result was more routine than you might think.

“I sort of saw the goal building up once the play developed,” the 28-year-old said. “People won’t believe it but we practice so many of these ‘attacking actions,’ they call them, throughout the week that it becomes second nature knowing where guys are and where guys are supposed to be.

“So it’s just one of those things that worked really well. And for me to be on the receiving end of such a nice team goal from the start of the play, when we pressed so well to win it back so high up the space and just go from there, it was really special to be a part of.”

It was Ramirez’s second goal of the season in eight appearances, and after arriving via trade from Minnesota United last August, the forward believes he’s settling into life at LAFC more this year.

“Last year when I came in I was sort of thrown into the fire and I was just trying to fit in. Now I can be myself and play a bit more free,” he explained. “Last game specifically Bob [Bradley] wanted me to play a bit more…let myself go and enjoy the game. I’m really hard on myself but I wanted to play with a smile on my face and that sort of translates to better production.”

For those unfamiliar with Ramirez’s career path, the Garden Grove native played collegiately at UC Santa Barbara before moving closer to home to play for Concordia University. What followed was a trip through the American soccer pyramid, playing for the Charlotte Eagles when they were in the then-USL Pro, and then moving to Minnesota during their NASL days, winning two NASL Golden Boot awards and being an NASL Best XI selection three consecutive seasons.

In 2017, when the Loons made the move to MLS, Ramirez came along, and proved he was more than capable of playing in the top flight, with 14 goals scored in his first season in the league.

His trajectory continues to climb, as he made both his international debut for the U.S. Men’s National Team and scored his first goal for his country earlier this year.

When asked about future call-ups, Ramirez said he had “no real expectation” and was willing to help the USMNT in any capacity if called upon, while also working to get the call to go to the Concacaf Gold Cup this summer.

“Gregg [Berhalter] and his staff do a really great job of communicating,” Ramirez said of the new USMNT head coach. “He came by when he was in LA and visited the facility for the first time and saw training. There’s always open communication. You know that every game, each weekend, they’re going to be watching…He’s watching every game, and every game is a chance to prove yourself and make yourself known and hopefully get on that roster in whatever format for the Gold Cup.”

Given Ramirez’s deep ties to Minnesota, the club’s newly opened stadium, Allianz Field, gives him two games he’s looking to take part in, including LAFC’s first game there on Sept. 29.

“Yeah, [LAFC’s game in Minnesota is] something I circled on my calendar when the schedule was released this year. I also have one more date penciled in, if I’m able to take part in the Gold Cup, when the U.S. plays at Allianz Field, would be really special, to be in Minnesota, in that stadium. So that would be really special. I call it my second home now, it holds a special place in my heart and experience that stadium and see some old faces,” he said.

While Ramirez maintains affection for Minnesota, he admits there are considerable benefits to playing in the area where he grew up. He noted the ability of family to help out with babysitting for the Ramirezes’ young daughter and making a home after a surprise move last summer.

“I knew that at some point in my career I would want to try to get to play in Southern California, in front of family and friends, I just didn’t know when or how soon or how,” he said. “For whatever reason, when I was hearing that I was going to be traded somewhere or I was available for a trade I never heard LAFC was involved in talks, so when I got the call I had been traded, when they told me it was to LAFC, I was shook a bit, because I didn’t expect it. I didn’t expect to one day be four hours by flight, halfway across the country, from my family and friends, to now, I’m 45 minutes’ drive from my family and friends, being able to play in front of my parents, my siblings, every weekend, in front of my daughter, my wife.”

The sizable cheering section for Ramirez at home games means he needs to rustle up as many tickets as he’s able to, and sometimes he can’t satisfy everyone.

“I try to round up as many tickets as I can each weekend. And some weekends people are left out but normally I’ve been lucky to get teammates who sometimes have extra tickets to get from the locker room. I have a couple of friends who have been with me from day one, and they drive, they leave Orange County for every game and some games I’m able to give them a ticket or two, and other games I tell them there’s no extras and they buy one, they have a good understanding of it, but it’s part of the support that really makes it special to be able to play at home.”

His goals for the league-leading LAFC this year? No surprise, it’s to keep winning and keep getting better.

“On a personal level continuing to get better each week, continuing to put myself in good spots and the goals will come. That’s something I firmly believe and all the extra work that I do that goes unnoticed will lead to more goals and just continuing to help the team in whatever aspect is needed...On a personal level as well, have the opportunity to make the Gold Cup roster, which would be a dream come true to play in a competitive tournament for the U.S.

“I want to be remembered as a winner. I want to win as many games as possible for LAFC this year and hopefully be the last team standing and bring home some hardware for our fans and everyone who supports us,” Ramirez added.

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