Christian Ramirez - From Journeyman to MLS Champion

The incredible story of a young boy from Garden Grove, California who's soccer career lead him across the pond and back to the US where he played a pivotal role in the Columbus Crew's 2023 MLS Cup Championship.

Written By: Jacob Casha 

Christian Ramirez TRUsox TRU Grip Socks

It was while growing up in Garden Grove, California that a young Christian Ramirez vowed he would be the one to drag his family out of the government-owned abode they called home. How? The only way he knew. “[Becoming a professional footballer] was my way of… getting our family out of that… and that was my whole mentality from day one; I have no other option, this is it.” The extent of young Ramirez’s dreaming didn’t end there, however—he wanted more. “Growing up watching the LA Galaxy—when Beckham was there and Donovan and Keane—lift [the MLS Cup] numerous times, that’s something I always dreamed of doing.”

Christian Ramirez TRUsox TRU grip socks
With this dream in mind, the veteran forward decided to return to the MLS with Columbus Crew for the 2023 season—this following a successful two-year stint with Scottish Premiership outfit Aberdeen FC. The 10-year pro had unfinished business in the US, and now with two seasons worth of experience abroad, the lethal frontman was back and as good as ever before, accumulating 12 goal contributions in just 19 league starts. However, with the bulk of those coming in the first half of the season, Ramirez endured an 11 game stretch without a goal to end the regular campaign, finding himself out of favor come the post-season.

Over the Crew’s first three playoff games against Atlanta United, Ramirez was starved of game time. At the conclusion of the team’s series-winning 4-2 triumph over The Five Stripes—in which the attacker played just a singular minute—many began to question what role the striker would play moving forward in the playoffs. Adversity, though, was nothing new for Ramirez— and neither was overcoming it.

Going into the conference semifinal against Orlando City, Ramirez’s mind was in two places; he not only had one of the biggest games of his career to mentally prepare for, but simultaneously, his wife, Valerie Ramirez, was preparing to give birth to their first son. “It was pretty wild… it was just constantly talking to my wife… She had contacts of my trainer and team doctor incase of anything and, once I put my phone away, I just left it in Gods hands for a little bit.”

Knowing that he had the birth of his son to look forward to, Ramirez then turned his attention to the game. “Once I got to the locker room and went out on the field I think the stage was set to just focus.” Like so many other instances throughout his life, he knew that all he needed was a sniff—a chance—and he could make something happen. “Knowing that I hadn’t started for a few games, I was just ready to make an impact… Being this late into the year, it was more about putting your ego aside and being ready when your name was called upon.”

After a 90-minute stalemate between the two sides, extra-time ensued. That’s when Crew head coach, Wilfried Nancy, turned to Ramirez to make the difference—and that, the marksman did. In the 93rd minute, and just moments after being subbed on, the experienced poacher used his instincts to make a clever double-movement which resulted in him prodding the ball home from no more than 2 yards out off a deflected Aidan Morris cross. Crew would go on to win the game 2-0, but, the cherry on the cake for Crew’s number 17 came after the final whistle. With Christian returning from Florida, the Ramirez family headed to the hospital where Kash Christian Ramirez was born at roughly 9am the next morning. “It was definitely just a relief that everyone was safe, little man was good and I was now able to just enjoy some time with my family.”

However, with the conference final against FC Cincinnati fast approaching, the now father of three still had business to take care of. With Ramirez again starting on the bench, the Crew initially struggled away from home, and as the opening half drew to a close, they found themselves down 2-0 and staring defeat in the eyes. As the second half commenced, Nancy and spectators alike knew that there was one man this game was dying for, and in the 65th minute, Ramirez took to the pitch with his work cut out for him. “I knew that one goal was gonna change the outcome of that game because we sensed the momentum was on our side. After that, it was just about being in the box and aware of where Diego (Rossi) and Cucho (Hernandez) were, giving them more space by being on the backline and giving the backline something else to worry about.”

Just 10 minutes later, Crew reduced the deficit to just one goal after Cincinnati’s Alvas Elvis Powell put the ball into his own net with Ramirez lurking. “I just tried to get something on it. I put myself in a good spot.” Then, in spectacular fashion in the 86th minute, Crew drew level through a Diego Rossi goal, with Ramirez again playing a huge part in the build-up. “I made eye contact with Julian (Gressel) and he played a great ball into me and I’m able to play a little flick around the corner to Diego and we got a little fortunate that it ended up falling to his feet again for a great finish.”

As the full-time whistle blew shortly after, extra-time beckoned. “We knew going into overtime that they were wounded and momentum was on our side, and it was just about waiting to capitalize on an opportunity,” said Ramirez. That’s when, in the 115th minute of the game, with both sides wilting, the veteran target man took matters into his own hands. “I took a look over my shoulder prior to Kevin playing the ball and saw Cucho was in a good space so made a near post run and closed off the goal just incase Cucho played it across to me, which he did.” The sharpshooter would make no mistake from 2 yards out, and just like that, Columbus Crew, on the back of a Christian Ramirez man-of-the-match performance, completed the comeback which would send them to the MLS Cup final.
Ramirez Man of the Match TRU TRUsox Grip Socks
At this stage, Ramirez could almost touch the trophy—the trophy that he had always dreamt of holding. But, there was just one team standing in his way: his former employers and hometown club, LAFC. Although Ramirez downplayed the significance of competing against familiar faces in the final, the stage was now set for the perfect ending to a prodigious few weeks for the talisman.

The Crew would go on to come out victorious in the MLS Cup Final, rounding out an incredible season that culminated in an overwhelming rush of emotions for the boy from Garden Grove, who once had a dream that was now a reality. “I think the final was, right now, the pinnacle of my career. To be able to lift that trophy—a trophy that I looked up to as a kid—is a feeling that you can't replicate, so there was all those emotions going through it.” The game, which happened to fall on the wedding anniversary of he and his wife, Valerie, was also the first game that his newborn son, Kash, was in attendance for, which the now MLS champion says made it all the more sweet. “It just lined everything up to have a storybook ending.”
Christian Ramirez MLS Champion TRU TRUsox grip socks
It would be an impossible task to try and guess what lies ahead for the 10 year pro—however, one thing’s for sure; he’s not done yet. “I just wanna play as long as I can and enjoy myself and win more trophies and continue to be an inspiration to anyone who has taken a different path or is taking a different path.” Although not yet ready to hang up the boots, the story of Christian Ramirez’s unconventional rise to the top perfectly typifies what our beloved sport is all about, and serves as a perfect example of just how the beautiful game earned such a moniker