Superman has landed in Columbus – even if it took a month longer than everyone hoped.
It was the 31-year-old striker’s first MLS appearance in nearly two years, having left Houston Dynamo FC two summers ago for Scotland’s Aberdeen FC. But the Crew, now led by head coach Wilfried Nancy, brought him back stateside in the offseason for moments like these.
“I’m really happy for him because he’s been out for a long time, as you know,” said Nancy, referencing a foot injury that delayed Ramírez's first Crew match until Matchday 5. “It was not easy for him. It was the first time that he’d been injured like this and he stayed on the process, he was on the side working hard.
“He’s a student of the game also – he’s really passionate about the game, so he understood all the little nuances that we put on the pitch. He deserves it, simple as that. He’s not the fastest guy, but he’s fast in his head to see the play and see ahead.”
Ramírez scored in the 47th and 64th minutes before being subbed out with a quarter-hour remaining in the Eastern Conference clash, showing the finishing instincts that buoyed his meteoric rise last decade.
Ramírez is a well-known name to longtime MLS fans, suiting up for Minnesota United FC, LAFC and Houston with 35 goals and 10 assists in 105 MLS regular-season games. Then he spent a year and a half in Scotland’s top flight before the Crew came calling this winter.
“For anyone who’s followed my journey, the last 10 months have been really frustrating for myself and the situation that I was in,” Ramírez said, referring to dwindled minutes overseas. “But I continued to have belief in myself and continued to work hard. Then I was blessed with this opportunity and had a random injury that was really frustrating the last month.
“I just stuck to the process and I was more frustrated because it’s probably been five years since I was hurt. So one of those where you just continue to look forward to games and I’m happy that I beat the timeline that I was given before.”
Ramírez's opportunity arose with club-record signing and Colombian international Cucho Hernandez (knee) sidelined for roughly a month, testing Columbus’ No. 9 depth chart. They’ve also got DP attacker Lucas Zelarayan (Armenia) away on international duty, removing the Crew’s two-headed force.
Simply, Ramírez wasn’t going to let this chance pass – even if it meant a first-half slip-up.
“I’m very impatient when it comes to injuries,” Ramírez quipped. “I was in such a rush tonight to play that I forgot to put my insert in my left foot, which is my injured foot. So the first half I played without an insert. That was bad on my part, but all good. As long as I can be out there, as long as the coach needs me, I’ll give him whatever he needs. He knows that and I think the medical staff did a great job.”
Ramírez, a selfless player by nature, praised the depth the Crew displayed. MLS NEXT Pro products Philip Quinton, Jacen-Russell Rowe and Max Arfsten also scored – with the former two on Columbus’ inaugural championship team last October.
“I think we showed tonight that we’re a pretty deep team,” said Ramírez. “The guys that we have missing, just adding them will add so much more.”
Nancy, who arrived this winter after leading CF Montréal, clearly has belief in whoever is available.
“I’m not a coach or guy who likes to complain about the players that are not here,” said Nancy. “So for me, I trust my team, my players.”
And he trusts Superman.