Working to engineer quick chemistry with new teammates is not a foreign concept for LAFC this season; it's an inherent hurdle for expansion sides and one that's further complicated by LAFC's embarrassment of attacking talent. But as Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi, Benny Feilhaber, Marco Urena, Adama Diomande, Lee Nguyen and others have all seamlessly linked their games with one another on the fly, LAFC have stormed up the Western Conference standings.
So when Christian Ramirez scored a brace in his first start with the club in their 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night, it shouldn't have been surprising. It's what they've been doing all season long.
"I think when we have a new guy in the team we have to talk a little bit because we don’t know each other, we don’t have chemistry to play together really quick," Vela said after the match. "We talk like 'how do you like to play, how do you like the ball, how do you feel better?' I want the best for my teammates."
Vela and Ramirez looked very much on the same wavelength as LAFC picked up their first win in nearly a month. Vela assisted on Ramirez's first goal, a movement that gave the impression the pair has played together for years.
Vela received a loose ball near the right touchline just outside the attacking third. As he took his first touch, yielding no signs imminent danger to the RSL defense, Ramirez instinctively burst toward the space that Vela would play him through on his second touch. The striker expertly controlled the pass to cut in front of the defender and laced an outside of the foot shot to the back of the net with his second touch. It was all so sequenced – almost if it was planned.
GOAL: Christian Ramirez scores a pretty first goal with his new team
"Credit to Carlos, he played an incredible ball into me," Ramirez said. "We talked about that specific play numerous times throughout practice, in warm-ups. He fired it in and I got on the end of it."
Vela, too, admitted they had discussed that exact movement.
"He said to me 'when you come in with your left foot I always try to go behind the defender—try to find me.' That was the first goal," Vela said.
Within the opening five minutes, Ramirez was creating opportunities for his teammates just with his movement. He checked back to receive the ball and opened a corridor of space for Rossi to sprint into, creating a one-on-one with Nick Rimando. With midfielders like Feilhaber, Nguyen, Andre Horta and Eduard Atuesta, those runs won't go unnoticed. Ramirez knows he won't score a pair of goals every time he steps on the field, but as long as he can help the team win, nothing else matters to him.
"I’m just glad that we won, that’s the most important thing," Ramirez said. " Any way I contribute – tonight was the goals, another night will be an assist or defensive tracking. But at the end, if we get those three points, that’s the most important thing to me."
They did get those three points on Wednesday night as Ramirez's goals were crucial for a stumbling LAFC side, who were at risk of falling to sixth in the Western Conference with a loss to RSL.
"When you go through a tough stretch, the discussions inside the team are tough ones, hard ones," head coach Bob Bradley said. "Nobody is smiling every day and happy, there’s a lot of work to be done. But that’s part of the deal."
After leaping from fifth to tied for second in the West, Bradley and co. should be smiling at training on Thursday. But not for too long – they have to prepare to face Colorado Rapids at the Banc of California Stadium on Sunday night (10 pm ET | TV & streaming info).