Minnesota United's Ramirez ready for first US National Team action Sunday
Christian Ramirez feels as though he's coming out ahead, regardless of whether he plays in the U.S. men's national team's friendly match against Bosnia and Herzegovina in Carson, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 27.
In his first invitation to train with the top U.S. team, the Minnesota United striker has been attentive to the habits and behaviors of his 29 teammates since camp started Wednesday, Jan. 10, near Los Angeles.
"Something that I take away from this camp is an attention to detail," Ramirez said Friday, Jan. 26. "That is taken into account by everyone out here. Whether it's taking care of our bodies or doing extra work. ... At this level, if you take one second off, you get punished."
Ramirez, 26, is one of six forwards in the U.S. camp and the least experienced of the bunch. Last summer, the Garden Grove, Calif., native thought his opportunity to play for the U.S. had passed forever when he was skipped over for the Gold Cup. So if he receives his first appearance Sunday, the moment will be savored.
"It would mean everything," Ramirez said. "It would be another box checked off on my bucket list in being able to wear this uniform and the privilege and responsibility that it carries. Being that it's in L.A. at the StubHub Center where family and friends will be, it couldn't be a better scenario for me."
On the training pitch, Ramirez is satisfied with what he has shown acting head coach Dave Sarachan and other U.S. Soccer officials. The U.S. is working to rebound after the devastating blow of not qualifying for the World Cup in Russia this summer.
"I think that I've adjusted well. I'm happy with how I've played," Ramirez said. "I think I've shown myself well and what I'm about. I've shown that I'm a team-first guy, and I will do the role that is asked of me."
Ramirez has scored goals in small-sided games in training and assisted on an Ian Harkes goal during an intrasquad scrimmage. "I played him through and he finished one," Ramirez said.
Ramirez has bonded with many new teammates, including forward Jordan Morris, defender Tim Parker and midfielders Cristian Roldan and Paul Arriola. He has reconnected with goalkeeper Cody Cropper, a Maple Grove native and training partner when they're both in Minnesota, and midfielder Kelyn Rowe, a former teammate with a regional Olympic Development Program squad when they were teenagers.
After a hamstring injury forced him to miss four MLS games last season, United asked Ramirez to alter his diet with a more regimented menu and higher quality products during the offseason. Ramirez has since cut about eight pounds to weigh 193.
Although Ramirez has been away for the Loons' first week of preseason training in Blaine, coach Adrian Heath isn't concerned about the absence of his leading scorer.
"I know he's been working really hard; we've been talking to him," Heath said Wednesday. "I know physically he's probably in the best shape that he's been in in a long time. He's lost a lot of weight, and I'm looking forward to him getting back."
After Sunday's friendly, Ramirez will fly to Orlando, Fla., on Monday, Jan. 29, to meet United for its training sessions and warm-up exhibition matches. The positive experience with the top U.S. team could be a springboard for Ramirez to build on his 2017 production of 14 goals and three assists in 30 games.
"From all the feedback that I've got from people, and I've rang around, he's doing well in camp," Heath said. "So that will be good for him."