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When a Sitting Duck Flies Away: A tribute to Christian Ramirez

We say goodbye to not only a fan-favorite, but somebody who means more than you would think for a few.

Logan Wiening

Editor’s Note: When it became apparent that Christian Ramirez’s time with Minnesota United was soon to end, our staff of writers immediately wanted to craft something personal and meaningful to remember the striker. So here they are—the raw emotions, memories and sentiments of our staff, all poured out in the best way we know how. Ramirez meant something to every Loons fan, and for many, that something is bigger than any word, video or tribute. But here is what he meant to some of us:

Jacob Schneider

Normally, after a Minnesota United victory, the Oasis hit “Wonderwall” would ring around the stadium and through the heads of those at home watching. A different song came to mind today, and it’s one of sadness and despair for many longtime MNUFC supporters, myself included. Oasis is a band with English roots, so it’s only appropriate that I stick with that continuation. “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve is the only appropriate song that suits the predicament we have been put in. I’m not going to lie, I am upset. I am devastated if you want me to be honest. For those of you that don’t know me on a personal basis or on Twitter, I am only 19. I am one of the main contributors covering Minnesota United, and this blog is the first step on my journey towards making something of myself in the soccer world. I grew up having idols on the international stage, namely Michael Ballack, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba. They stole my heart on the international stage, I was simply enamored with their skill level and style of play. I became a goalkeeper because of Cech, I tried worldy goals in training because of Drogba and I took pride in my physicality and leadership-something Ballack had. Those three players inspired my soccer career, but that was all through a television. Christian Ramirez was real-life; he was in front of me as I screamed my head off in the supporter’s section at NSC. Seeing such a talent in person blew my mind; I was in awe at every pass and goal he scored.

I have so many memories of the guy, so many moments I hold near and dear to my heart because of the fact that everything was real. His passion, his love and support surrounding our club and Minnesota soccer. It was all real. The bicycle against Indy, THAT goal against the Cosmos, the moment he and Miggy unveiled their Batman and Superman shirts to the crowd, the brace vs RSL in 2017. It was all real. Everything. I was never really good at soccer, but I loved it more than anything. Ramirez came to Minnesota five years ago as an unknown prospect who made something of himself and is now the most beloved character in team history. I want to do the same thing; I want to enter this field of journalism as an unknown prospect who will be doubted at first, but then starts turning heads day by day until people realize: “Damn. This kid is good, really good”. Everybody has idols; people they look up to in a sense. I had mine on a TV screen until I met Christian.

My first interview with him was at the 2018 kit reveal at MOA, where I nearly died inside. I felt like a kid opening presents on Christmas morning when he walked up to me. He asked me who I was, he’d never seen me around the media scene before so he took the time out of his moment to address me. Me, of all people. I will never forget that. He genuinely cared for everything revolving around Minnesota Soccer, and you know? That kind of person doesn’t come around often, he will be genuinely missed. My last interview with Christian was about a month or so ago, and I got the chance to talk to him about something besides soccer; fatherhood. When I told him that’s what I wanted to talk about, he laughed and just smiled. It was like a relief on his face that he could just have a casual conversation and he wouldn’t have to worry about being quoted or saying the right thing at the right time; he could just be himself. I didn’t know that Christian too well, but boy would I have loved to. Like I said before, I have plenty of memories revolving around Christian, but not a single one means more to me than this:

I bought the NASL limited edition third kit at NSC on a Saturday night, I put it on immediately and went to the stands. Post-match, Christian saw the shirt gave me a thumbs up, he then proceeded to ask me if I had a sharpie. I replied “no, I don’t. Does anybody have a sharpie?” I asked all of the DC’s around me but nobody did. Christian replied with something along the lines of “don’t worry, I’ll get one, just wait.” He proceeded to shake hands with all the fans and watch Justin Davis chug his celebratory beer, he then went to the tunnel and returned with a sharpie, signing my jersey. That was something I’ll honestly never forget, again, a moment where he went out of his way for me of all people. What a guy. Lastly, Christian released these hoodies a few years back, partnering with a group in his native California. I think it took me less than five minutes to order one. Ask anybody who knows me, this is my favorite hoodie. It always has been and it probably always will be. He was just my guy, I really idolized him. He was more than just a player to me, and I can’t help but get emotional knowing that my #21 will not be rolling out in a Loons uniform anymore. It’s sad, it’s upsetting and it just doesn’t seem right. Players come and go, that’s professional sports for you, and it really, really sucks. Thank you Christian, thank you so, so much. You’re more than you think you are and you haven’t reached your highest potential; the sky is still the limit for you, Superman. I wish you the best of luck in L.A. and the best of luck under a phenomenal coach like Bob Bradley.

Leo Bickelhaupt

I was perched on the edge of my couch watching Minnesota United play in its MLS debut at Portland. It was pissing rain and in spite of some flashes of brilliance, the Loons were down 2-0 in a hostile environment. It was late in the second half before Ramirez was given a chance, but it took him about two minutes to show that he could score at this level. He collected a long pass from Johan Venegas at the top of the 18, executed a half turn, and pounded the ball into the corner. “It’s in, it’s in, it’s in!” was the call from Callum Williams. It was my first MLS Loons goal celebration, and the fact that it was Ramirez who rippled the net made me jump extra high off my couch and pump my fist extra hard. It was one of the most satisfying goals I have ever witnessed – regardless of what happened afterwards.

You see, for Minnesota United fans, Christian Ramirez was one of our own. He was one of us. He was our boy. He’s not a native Minnesotan, but he had become the nation’s top goal scorer while plying his trade at a little stadium in Blaine, of all places. He arrived as a long shot and became an NASL legend, knocking in goals from all over the pitch. Every MLS goal Christian scored, then, was a shot in the arm – an affirmation of what the club had been building for years outside of the spotlight: a real soccer team with real soccer fans that had a real goal scorer. When Christian began to translate his NASL success at the MLS level, it was a beautiful marriage past and present. For me and many others, his success bred a fierce brand of loyalty – a kind of loyalty that all of Atlanta United’s money couldn’t buy. Loons till I die. Minnesota had moved up to the big time, but they were gutsy enough to bring their soul with them. Man, it seemed too good to be true!

It was. They traded him for Garber bucks.

Ben Stacer

Christian Ramirez has been traded to LAFC, and it feels like a personal loss for many of the Loons faithful. Ramirez has been a consistent piece of the puzzle for Minnesota United for the last five years, dating back to the club’s NASL days. It feels as if Ramirez truly guided Minnesota United from the NASL to MLS, wracking up accolades and awards in the NASL before the club made the jump to MLS. During his time with Minnesota United, Ramirez contributed plenty of goals, and plenty of memories, for the Loons and their fans:

  • Ramirez was the first Loon to reach the 50 goal mark.
  • Ramirez was the first Loon to score an MLS goal.
  • Ramirez contributed massively in Minnesota’s first MLS win, scoring two goals against Real Salt Lake.
  • Ramirez holds the club record for most goals with 74.

Ramirez truly earned his nickname.

Thank you, Superman, for everything you’ve done for Minnesota soccer, and for the Loons.

Good luck back home in California. You’ll be missed.

John Stephenson

Something will never quite be the same without Christian Ramirez. I don’t remember a time when he was not playing for Minnesota. Now he is being traded.

I began to love Minnesota United back in the old NASL days, when Christian was scoring screamers left and right. Ramirez’s prowess stood out to me as a young fan. He looked extremely focused yet still appeared to be having fun. In the NASL, Ramirez scored amazing goals which showcased his skill and superiority. In the MLS, Ramirez continued to score goals but in different ways, because the skill level of teams had increased. Ramirez in the MLS was forced to be more positionally savvy. He adapted to the higher level of play with increased awareness of his positioning, leaving himself easy goals to score.

Ramirez is the staple of the team to me. He brought a certain light to the squad that other players simply could not bring. He scored in our first ever MLS game, against Portland, when we were annihilated. He could always find a way to get through the horrific times that the team and himself were having. This became abundantly clear recently, when going through a cold stretch. Being criticized heavily (not just by our editor), he bounced back from his depleted play and scored one goal against New England and a hat trick against LAFC. Despite his play, his stats, or whatever else you could have against him, if you have ever been in the stadium, you know how much he is loved. Ramirez received a standing ovation at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday when he walked onto the field as a sub, and rightfully so. He is well loved by Minnesotans not just because of his time spent here, but the electricity he brought.

Ramirez will be fondly missed. Somehow the gap will never be filled in our hearts, not by Rodriguez or even Quintero. He will always be one of us. Ramirez has embodied all a club could ask for. He scored goals and connected with us personally, despite being on the other side of the chalk. Callum Williams’ voice screaming “RAMIREZ” will always be remembered by me and many other Minnesotans.

Dominic Jose Bisogno

Christian Ramirez’ time with the Loons wasn’t always perfect, but when it was, it was the stuff of dreams. When I see Christian run on to the pitch I immediately remember his two against RSL. I remember him doubling our lead against Kansas. I remember his weaving run off a bold ball from Johan Venegas to slot home Minnesota’s winning goal against Orlando on Pride Night. I was lucky to see these goals live and to see that classic celebration from what at the time seemed like touching distance.

In many ways Ramirez was a representation of what the club was and could be. A superstar in a lower division. A humble talent making it work in the big leagues. This season was not what he or the club would have wanted when it comes down to results and stats, but I don’t think I, or any supporter, will remember Christian for the more negative events of the summer of 2018. I’ll remember him as the striker with a big smile, running toward the side line and jumping into the air as he gives a struggling crowd hope that maybe they’ll get all three that night.

Alissa Knop

He was number 21, but he was also number 1. Number 1 as in the first Loon in my memory bank when I first discovered the NASL team from Minnesota. I’m not going to say this is going to be a love story, but it just as well may be. I was from Wisconsin, and my boyfriend is from Minnesota. Our main conversations in the beginnings of dating revolved around soccer. When I found out that Minnesota would be getting an MLS team, I was ecstatic. Wisconsin doesn’t have any pro soccer and it was a team we both could cheer for that wasn’t purple and yellow (blech). One of our first big dates was to an NASL Loons that CR21 scored in (an absolute banger to the lower corner). He was the only player I remembered after that game by name. You can’t forget a guy who plays like him. I remembered the swagger, the smile, the shot. There’s something about a player that charismatic you can’t forget. The following year, my boyfriend and I attended the snow-pener in first-row seats like we always talked about in the beginnings of our relationship. The end result of the game may not have been what we wanted, but we were in awe when the players came right by and gave us a wave, a head nod, and a small smile. Christian was the one guy who stopped in the tunnel to talk to my boyfriend, even though it was freezing and they had just lost. I know he was always in it for the fans. My now fiancee (yes, we’re engaged!) traveled to Kansas City this season to watch the Loons from the fourth row on the MN bench side and I’m glad we got to see the striker one more time up close and personal. Our relationship grew as the team did and I can thank them for that. Coming from the small stage to the MLS takes dedication and passion—something Christian will take with him wherever he plays. Good luck in Los Angeles, Superman. You’ll always be my first Loon to me.

Colin O’Donnell

Let’s quickly address the context of the move and go on: In a week where we all wished to focus on upsetting and strange comments about selection politics and the decision to keep a substitute on the bench during a must-win game that the Loons lost in heartbreaking and understandable fashion, we instead have to deal with the biggest star in the team’s history being sent to a playoff contender for allocation money that, as fans, we have plenty of past evidence to expect will be spent poorly.

I spent a lot of a sleepless night trying to remember all of the moments I was present at where Christian Ramirez made me fall in love with Minnesota United. There was the moment where he finished that Justin Davis cross to finally beat the Cosmos where, if you look not that closely, you can see me losing my mind running down the ad boards from my spot over to TNE to celebrate. There was that hat trick against the Railhawks. There was the first goal in the team’s MLS history in that game in Portland, where the assembled fans who got angry that the NASL players got stuck on the bench to start felt the release of one of their own heroes making history. There was the first Wonderwall in TCF Bank where nicking Rimando ended up being the clincher, the first of his three goals that ended up being a winner for the Loons that year. There was the sitting duck celebration that made me look like a genius in the EPL Slack channel.

There are also the stats, like his first MLS season where he was tied for 11th in the league in goals scored (behind nine designated players and only two players eligible for the USMNT), 11th in overperforming his expected goals tally (tops among USMNT-eligible players), 17th in the league in goals per 96 among players that played more than 1000 minutes, and tied 17th for expected goals created—all marks that led the Loons in 2017. There’s the one where he scored the most professional goals among all Americans playing worldwide between 2015 and 2017. There’s the one where he’s second on the team in goals this year. And there’s the one where, with 71 goals, he’s the second-highest scoring player in Minnesota pro soccer history behind Alan Willey.

But perhaps most importantly, Christian Ramirez was, with deference to Miguel Ibarra, the first star for Minnesota United FC. He was the goal scorer when we all started to love the team, when the momentum started to hit a critical mass in this town around soccer. He was the face of the franchise when they went from the Team That Nobody Wanted to the Team That Props Up MLS. And there was the get together in the conference room in Golden Valley with a bunch of Dark Clouds where he was reunited as an MLS player with Miguel Ibarra where, for some reason, I felt like the team was willing to truly move the identity of the NASL into their next chapter.

Having been there to see so much of what Christian meant to this club, it’s honestly hard to think MNUFC can be the same with his absence.

Eli Hoff

I’m probably the last person here at Loonum who should be writing any sort of tribute to Christian Ramirez, so here I am, writing last.

If you haven’t already heard, I was the one who tweeted the rankings of Minnesota United’s forwards, placing Ramirez last. I was also the one who referred to him as a “sitting duck,” prompting a goal celebration to mark the end of his goal-scoring slump. Though I think that Ramirez didn’t stand a chance on the field, he was certainly one of the most integral off of it.

Christian Ramirez is the single most important player in Minnesota United history. He’s the boy from California who made Minnesota his kingdom. He’s the player who brought attention to an NASL team and who dazzled a league and a fanbase. He’s the player who was doubted, perpetually, but always stepped up to prove the haters wrong.

As you’ve read, he’s the player to took precious moments out of his own time to make precious moments for others.

And in the terms of the media, a world that isn’t always referenced, he was one of the Minnesota United press crops’ favorite players. Some players dash off after a loss, but Ramirez always stayed and was ready to talk.

I remember talking to him about the World Cup this year, the only time I interviewed him one-on-one. Here was a player who loved soccer so much, and also thought Gabriel Jesus of Brazil would be the breakout player of the tournament.

He’ll be missed in that regard too.

Ramirez’s biggest contributions were in the NASL where he shone as one of the league’s best. But last season, the team’s first in MLS, he remained a bright spot in a murky campaign. He scored the team’s first goal, then dazzled in the Loons’ first win. Though his last season may not have been the most productive, that ceases to matter. His legacy is befitting of the one we call Superman.

Ramirez will never get the send-off from Minnesota fans he deserves. He sat on the bench for the entirety of his last match, and fans’ attention was far from focused on the star at the final whistle. So I’d like to see one lasting mark of everything that Ramirez has brought to soccer in Minnesota:

The number 21 jersey is iconic now for Minnesota United, and I hope that it remains associated with Ramirez. Can it be retired? Maybe not yet, but if there ever will be a number that deserves it, it’s that of the most important Loon there ever was.

We’re in the process of compiling a collection of fan stories/memories of Ramirez. If you’d like to share yours, drop them in the comments section or in reply to the tweet below.