For Christian Ramirez’s mom, at least, this news was a long time coming.
The Minnesota United striker received the e-mail from U.S. Soccer informing him of his call-up to the U.S. national team while he was home in California for the offseason. He was driving to the grocery store with his mom and his wife and told the two when they arrived.
“My mom started crying because they had told her when I was 14 that I was going to get invited to a camp, and that never happened,” Ramirez said. “So that was the first thing that she said. She said, ‘I knew someday it would finally happen.’ She just didn’t know when. Now that it finally happened, she was pretty happy.”
After months of buzz, Ramirez earned his first call-up to the U.S. national team Monday. He is one of 30 call-ups who will report to the National Training Center in Carson, Calif., for the annual January camp beginning Wednesday. The camp traditionally has been a chance for U.S. Soccer to bring in new potential talent for the national team.
Ramirez, 26, could earn his first cap, or national team appearance, in the squad’s next match, a Jan. 28 international friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina at StubHub Center in Carson.
As Ramirez put it, he’s taken “the road less traveled” to reach this moment in his career. A native of Garden Grove, Calif., he transferred from a Division I college team to Division II, played several seasons in the then-third tier United Soccer League and then joined the Loons in 2014 in the second-division North American Soccer League. He only just made the jump to MLS in 2017 with United.
But Ramirez said all that hard work kept a chip on his shoulder that has made this achievement “truly a dream come true.”
In his first top-division season, Ramirez scored a team-high 14 goals with three assists, starting 27 games and appearing in 30 of 34 total.
Since 2014 he has tallied 67 goals in 125 games, which puts him behind just CJ Sapong of the Philadelphia Union and Jozy Altidore of Toronto FC for all U.S. strikers in that time period, according to United.
A fan favorite on the Loons, Ramirez is nicknamed Superman alongside best friend and Loons midfielder Miguel Ibarra, also known as Batman. Ibarra earned three caps for the U.S. in 2014-15 when playing in the second division with United. Loons winger Ethan Finlay also played for the United States three times in 2016.
Ibarra, also a Southern California native, and Ramirez worked out together at home this offseason, so Ibarra was one of the first to know about his friend’s call-up.
“For me, he had deserved it a long time ago. It was just a matter of time to just wait,” Ibarra said. “Once he got it, I was really happy for him and just told him he deserved it. And now he has to go out there and do what he’s been doing out here.”
U.S. Soccer is in a state of overhaul after the men’s team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup this past fall. It was the first time since 1986 the team had missed out on the tournament. Coach Bruce Arena resigned in the wake of that failure, so his top assistant Dave Sarachan is in charge on an interim basis. The hiring of a new coach likely won’t happen until U.S. Soccer elects a new president Feb. 10 from a pool of eight candidates.
But Ramirez said that doesn’t put a damper on this.
“It’s an open opportunity for everyone that’s being called in,” Ramirez said. “At the end of the day, it’s just soccer, and I’m one of the 30 to luckily be invited to this camp. And it’s a privilege to play for your national team no matter the situation that the national team is in. So you know, you have to go out and represent your country in the correct way. For as long as I waited for this opportunity, it can go by so quickly and be taken away just like that. So that’s in the back of my mind to make sure I don’t let it slip.”
• Maple Grove native Cody Cropper, a goalkeeper with the New England Revolution, also received a call-up.
• United sporting director Manny Lagos said Ramirez only would miss the first week of training camp, which begins Jan. 22, but would join the team in Florida by the next week.