Christian Ramirez took an indirect route to his career as a professional soccer player for the Los Angeles Football Club and the U.S. Men’s National Team. That path included two critical years at Concordia Irvine where Ramirez re-discovered his love for the game.
“Christian has such an amazing heart,” says CUI men’s soccer coach Chris Gould ’06, MBA ’07. “He’s very humble and encouraging to other guys. Everybody’s so happy for him because it’s like a good guy made it.”
As a forward for the Eagles, Ramirez scored 23 goals in his senior year, still the school’s single-season record. He was conference player of the year. Now, in his seventh year as a pro player, Ramirez is living a dream that began while he was growing up in Westminster to Colombian immigrants in low-income housing.
“My parents’ sacrifices made me who I am now,” Ramirez says. “Family is everything to me. I wouldn’t be in the position or the person I am without the sacrifices my parents have made.”
Ramirez’s soccer talent landed him on club teams and in the Olympic Development Program. But at 6' 2", 187 pounds, some didn’t consider him the typical soccer player.
“Some say I don’t fit the mold of a forward, that I'm too slow or not as athletic,” Ramirez says. “It’s awesome to continue to prove them wrong.”
After playing for a large university, and finding the circumstance to be a bad fit, Ramirez decided to move closer to family in Orange County. CUI’s Gould and then-assistant coaches Cheyne Gordon and Mike Osiguera knew Ramirez from club soccer and offered him a place on the Eagles’ team.
“They convinced me that Concordia was the right place for me and that I would find the love for the game again,” Ramirez says. “That is what happened. I fell in love with the game again. I trusted them because they knew who I was as a player and what type of personality I was. I was comfortable that they would mentor and guide me in the right direction.”
Ramirez came in as a center mid-fielder but Gould immediately made him a forward.
“He can change a game,” says Gould. “He has a process and a composure in front of the goal that’s in contrast to other players. Most players get emotional. Christian had a process of how he wanted to execute whatever the circumstance was. What made him successful is he wanted to understand why. He got to the point where he would suggest how we approach certain games because he understood what we were doing and why. It was like having a coach on the field.”
Ramirez also quietly made other players better. “He created solutions for guys on the field,” Gould says. “If you didn’t understand what you were seeing, you’d say someone else did it.”
The Eagles posted their historically best seasons those years, earning the conference title and making it to the quarterfinals in the national tournament.
“I was having fun again playing soccer,” Ramirez says. “When I’m having fun playing soccer everything takes care of itself.”
Gould says Ramirez is successful “because he works harder than almost everybody else. He took the time to go the extra mile in every controllable dimension. We set a vision for what he could be and laid a pathway for how to get there. The rest was up to Christian to execute and believe in it.”
Concordia helped me find myself as a person. They really shaped me into the man that I am today.
Christian met his wife, Valerie (Barrios) Ramirez ’15, who also played soccer for the Eagles. They now have one child.
And while plenty of people told Christian he would never make it professionally after going from a Division I school to an NAIA school, his CUI career earned him a spot on the Charlotte Eagles, a third division professional team in North Carolina. Eight months later he signed with Minnesota United FC and scored off the bench in his first game. In the next four years he scored 65 goals in 120 league appearances and won the North American Soccer League 2014 and 2016 Golden Boot awards. He was traded from Minnesota to the Los Angeles Football Club in 2018.
“I don’t think you could ask for a better representative for our soccer program,” says Gould. “It shows what a Christ-centered experience can do to love, encourage and help somebody toward what God is calling them to be.”
In January, Ramirez reached another career pinnacle, being called up to play his first match on the U.S. Men’s National Team, against Panama.
“I took some moments during the game to soak in what was going on,” Ramirez recalls. “Before being subbed in I closed my eyes and took three deep breaths because it’s a lifelong dream to play. I know how much privilege and honor it is to represent this country which has given my family this opportunity to have a better life.”
Less than five minutes into that appearance, he scored a goal.
“When I scored, as I was shooting the ball into the net I was processing and saying, ‘Please don’t kick the ball over,’” he says.
He played another game on the U.S. team, against Costa Rica.
“Soccer has given me the opportunity to provide for my family in ways that wouldn’t be possible without the sport,” he says. “It helped me meet so many of my friends and mentors, and helped me travel the world.”
Much of his confidence goes back to his Concordia Irvine experience.
“Concordia helped me find myself as a person,” Ramirez says. “They really shaped me into the man that I am today. Without their guidance I wouldn’t have believed in myself and have the assurance in who I am or who I could become on and off the soccer field. They pushed me in the right direction. I’m forever thankful for them, that God brought me in connection with them. We worked through a lot while I was there and I’m thankful for that.”
As for his future, Ramirez sees another decade on the field if he continues to avoid injuries. “I think I have a lot of years left,” he says. “I’ll play until they drag me off the field.”