Summer 2024

Columbus Crew playoff hero Christian Ramirez trusting in God during run to MLS Cup

Christian Ramirez isn’t sure he would have embraced his role with the Columbus Crew quite as well if it had come earlier in his career. The 32-year-old only started 19 of the team’s 34 regular-season games this year, while higher-profile players like Cucho Hernandez led the way for Major League Soccer’s most prolific attack.

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Ramirez has not gotten a start in the playoffs, but that has not prevented him from becoming a postseason hero in Columbus. Ramirez netted a game-winner in extra time to get the Crew past Orlando City in the conference semifinals Nov. 25.

And he did the same thing in the conference final a week later. Columbus trailed archrival FC Cincinnati 2-0 when Ramirez entered Saturday’s game, but he helped create an own goal to get Columbus on the board, and then he netted the decisive goal in the 115th minute to send the league’s regular-season champions home in front of their own fans.

“It’s special to see the rewards from my hard work,” he said after the game. “I’m showing everyone, there’s a moment when you put your ego aside and you trust the coach and trust at this point in the season. It’s not about starts, it’s about the impact of the game. And yeah, a younger me would have maybe been questioning and frustrated. I just kept believing, kept working.”

In between the games, Ramirez and his wife, Valerie, welcomed their third child, named Kash. Now, Ramirez is preparing to play in the MLS Cup for the first time.

Columbus is the fourth MLS team Ramirez has played for, and he made two appearances with the U.S. men’s national team in 2019. He scored 14 goals with Minnesota United in 2017, his first year in the league. Stops at LAFC and the Houston Dynamo were followed by a stint with Aberdeen in the Scottish Premier League. Ramirez signed with the Crew in January and produced 11 goals and six assists across all competitions during the regular season.

He has drawn confidence from his faith in God throughout his career, and he has the Bible verse Philippians 4:13 written out in his bio on X.

“I never took no for an answer,” he told MLSSoccer.com in 2018 after getting called up to the national team. “I believed in what I could do and the hard work that nobody sees. The countless hours, all the runs, all the finishing, everything. Believing in God and that someday I’ll get an opportunity. … I don’t listen to the noise. I just put my head down and work and see the rewards as they come.”

His professional career began with the Charlotte Eagles, a Christian club whose mission is to “glorify God and see lives transformed by communicating the message of Jesus Christ through the global environment of soccer.” Ramirez told Cross the Line in 2019 that his time at the club was crucial for his spiritual development. From there, he joined Minnesota United and was with the team for its debut season in MLS.

Ramirez has realized along his journey that many of his disappointments have come when he was relying on his own strength rather than the Lord’s.

“When you try to do things on your own is when I have failed,” Ramirez told Cross the Line. “I just have to put myself second to God and to be selfless in the way that I live my life, whether that is on the field or off it with people I am dealing with. I try to do things the way that I feel God would.”

Saturday’s MLS Cup pits Ramirez against LAFC, one of his former teams and the defending champion. Kickoff is at 4 p.m. ET on FOX and Apple TV.

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