Ex-Strikers FC stand-out Christian Ramirez continues working towards bigger goals
Nobody ever said it was easy to make it as a soccer pro and young striker Christian Ramirez has had his fair share of trials and tribulations.
But after every setback, Christian, now 24, has bounced back through dedication, passion and determination to win a name for himself as one of the best strikers in the country in the NASL and on national coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s lips as a striker to watch for the future.
His rollercoaster ride through club and college soccer to making his mark as a pro is a lesson to every youth player with ambitions of reaching their soccer dreams.
Just weeks away from the start of the Spring NASL season, Christian, top scorer with Minnesota United, explained in an interview with Football.com how he navigated the tricky path to the pros - and how much he owes to his former Strikers FC coach Don Ebert, now the club’s Director of Operations.
Born in Santa Ana, CA on April 4, 1991, Christian spent the first seven years of his life in his parents’ native Colombia before returning to SoCal and attending La Quinta High School in Westminster, close to his hometown of Garden Grove.
He started playing soccer at the age of 4 and always played a year up with older kids right up until he was well into his teens.
He joined his first club team, CFC Italia, coached by Art Tedesco, as a U9 player and quickly started finding the net on a regular basis. When that team was disbanded, he was persuaded by some pals to try out for the Irvine Strikers.
It was the perfect fit. He played for the U14 to U18 teams and remembers Don Ebert as a defining influence on his career. “Don was the greatest coach I have ever had,” he says now. “He understood me as a player and he motivated me to give me confidence and the belief to be the best player on the pitch at all times. He was always pushing me because he knew I had potential.
“He would even call me out in front of the group and say, ‘You may have the best talent but you won’t go anywhere without putting the work in.”
Despite being cut on his first tryout for the Cal South ODP squad, he also established himself at the highest levels of youth soccer, captaining both the Region IV team and the USYSA Cal South ODP squad.
While with the ODP team, he won a USYSA ODP National Championship, scoring two goals and tallying an assist in the championship game and won four consecutive Regional Championships from 2004-08.
He was named the Cal-South Player of the Year for 2008-09.
In a short period with the Pateadores, he also won the Cal-South Premier State Championship. In another brief stint with the San Diego Surf he won the 2008 Surf Cup.
As if that wasn’t enough, he managed to score 17 goals and tally 10 assists as a freshman at La Quinta High School and collected 18 goals and eight assists as a sophomore before focusing on ODP.
After such a stellar Youth Club career, the bottom suddenly fell out of Christian’s soccer world just at a time he hoped it would be taking off.
He was recruited by soccer powerhouse UC Santa Barbara with high hopes only to find himself the odd man out in the coach’s system and spent most of his two years there on the bench. Although he was playing Division 1 college soccer he was hardly getting any playing time and, even worse, he was beginning to question his future in the game. He even considered quitting the sport he loved altogether.
Offered a full ride by coach Chris Gould at Concordia University in Irvine, Christian decided to leave Santa Barbara and kickstart his soccer ambitions. The 6’2” forward ended up his college career two years later with 44 goals and 18 assists.
While at Concordia, Christian was named NAIA First Team All-American in 2012 and was also the GSAC 2012 Player of the Year. In 2011 he made the All-GSAC First Team and broke the school record for points in a game with five goals and three assists against William Jessup.
But once he’d graduated, he still had to fight for his dreams, paying his own way for a trip to North Carolina for a try-out with the Charlotte Eagles, which plays in the American Division of the USL Professional Division, the third tier of the American Soccer Pyramid.
It was a case of starting at the bottom, but he didn’t let that phase him. In Christian’s first year with the Eagles they reached the final, where he scored twice for the losing side. It was no great surprise when Minnesota United, a top NASL team, came knocking.
This time, he clicked from the start, scoring 20 goals in 2014, tying the single-season league record and catching the eye of USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who mentioned him as a prospect for future national team squads.
As much as he is enjoying playing for Minnesota, he is looking forward to even greater things.
“I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to play at the highest level I possibly could. That’s every kid’s dream. To play in Mexico, in Spain or other European countries. These are all destinations that drove me on in my career.”
Christian’s biggest fans are still his family - his brothers Sebastian, 13, and Steven, 10, now play for the Irvine Strikers, just as he did not so long ago.
And he tells his brothers what he tells other young players who look up to him: “Try your best and work as hard as you can on your game and you can make your dreams come true.”