Columbus Crew hero: Christian Ramírez dedicates historic winner to newborn


This time last week, Columbus Crew forward Christian Ramírez was celebrating his game-winning goal at Orlando City SC that sent his team to the Eastern Conference Final. But his mind was in two places.

Because beyond the jubilant celebrations unfolding at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, he knew his wife could go into labor with their third child at any minute.

Now, with Monday’s healthy arrival of Ramírez’s newborn son Kash Christian Ramírez, the dad of three can celebrate his second-straight game-winning goal – this time against arch-rivals FC Cincinnati to send the Crew to their second MLS Cup in four years – with a little more peace of mind.

“Look at my hospital bracelet on. That was a little good luck charm today,” said Ramírez after the match, showing off the plastic wristband that hasn’t left his body for the last week.

Saturday’s dramatic 3-2, extra-time comeback road win for Columbus, which Ramírez helped fuel as a key part of all three Crew goals after subbing on in the 65th minute, will go down in MLS history as one of the greatest matches the league has ever seen – a thrilling derby with seesawing emotions amid the highest stakes imaginable.

For the 32-year-old veteran whose career has wound through the lower divisions of American soccer, four different MLS teams, and a stint with Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership, it was the love and support from his family – and the promise of their attendance at a potential MLS Cup – that fueled his clutch performance.

“I wanted my mom to come tonight really badly because this game was basically the biggest game of my career so far, and she sacrificed so much for me,” said Ramírez after the match. “She stayed home to help my wife with the kids, as well as my wife's mom. And she just said 'make it to next week and we'll all be there.'”

With the Crew down 2-0 when Ramírez entered the match, “making it to next week” seemed like a far-fetched proposition. But studying the game from the bench, the clutch goal-scorer knew his chances would come.

“I just thought if we can get one, we're gonna get the second one,” said Ramírez. “We felt they were tired. We felt good physically compared to them and that moment when that second one goes in I think it just deflated them. We sensed that. It's almost like they say when you sense some blood in the water.”

Ramírez, sensing that blood in the 115th minute, went in for the kill, pouncing on a beautifully centered header from star forward Cucho Hérnandez, who passed up a possibility to shoot himself to give his partner the better chance.

“[Ramírez] deserves everything,” said head coach Wilfried Nancy of his backup striker's incredible week-long run that's included two playoff game-winners and the birth of a new child. “Because again as a person, this is a really good person, and tactically I like to play with him because he's able to have a lot of flexibility.”

That tactical flexibility proved vital for Nancy, who threw in Ramírez, a noted poacher in the box, alongside crossing-specialist Julian Gressel in order to break down Cincy’s low-defensive block late in the match.

“It's all about profile, and for this game, we needed this kind of profile,” said Nancy. “So it worked.”

Ramírez’s role as a super sub is one he had to adjust to later in the year, having started nearly all of the Crew’s matches over the summer before Hernández, Diego Rossi and Alexandru Matan emerged as Nancy’s preferred starting trio in attack. Overcoming the adversity of a diminished role only made his match-winner that much sweeter.

“It's special to see the rewards from my hard work,” said Ramírez. “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.”

Now Ramírez can enjoy the fruits of his labor with a first-ever trip to MLS Cup on Dec. 9 vs. LAFC as his family watches from the stands at Field.

And the hospital wristband? It won’t be going anywhere.

“One more week,” said Ramírez, waving his arm in the air once more. “No better game than MLS Cup for little Kash to come to his first game.”