For Miguel Ibarra and Christian Ramirez, soccer is a family affair and there will be echoes of that familial nostalgia as they help Minnesota United go up against the visiting LA Galaxy on Sunday (5 pm ET | ESPN; MLS LIVE in Canada).
After all, the two Southern Californians both grew up going to Galaxy games with their fathers.
The elder Ramirez took his son to games from their Garden Grove home and they would both marvel at Juan Pablo Angel, who came from Christian's dad's hometown of Medellin, Colombia, and played for his favorite club Atletico Nacional. The first time the Ramirezes went to watch the Galaxy, it was for the 2001 U.S. Open Cup match played at Cal State Fullerton. Alexi Lalas scored the game-winning goal and proceeded to run the length of the field and up a grass hill behind the goal.
Christian Ramirez remembers that, but more poignantly recalls watching David Beckham collapse to the ground in tears after suffering another knee injury in the 2007 Superliga final against Pachuca.
“You could see how much it meant to him,” said Ramirez.
Ibarra’s favorite Galaxy memories came off the pitch. Former Galaxy fullback Sean Franklin grew up just five minutes from where Ibarra lived in Lancaster, and the two would train together during the offseasons.
For Ibarra, who was overlooked throughout his youth career, the opportunity to practice with an MLS professional was life-changing.
“I never thought I’d train with an MLS player,” said Ibarra. “Sean would always just tell me to keep going.”
Ibarra, too, went to Galaxy matches with his father. For him, it was the genius of Landon Donovan that stood out.
“I always loved the way he played the game, but I was able to play with him [while with the US national team],” said Ibarra.
Ibarra didn’t just train with his idol during his first call-up to the national team in October 2014. The young midfielder—then an almost completely unknown player from the second division NASL—earned his international debut by subbing in for Donovan during Donovan’s final match with the US.
“I’ll always remember that,” said Ibarra.
Ramirez and Ibarra's Southern California roots not only mean that the two Minnesota attackers are familiar with the Galaxy, but that they have also previously faced some of their upcoming opponents. For instance, Ibarra played with Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes on the US national team. Ramirez also played for a year with the Galaxy Under-20 team in the Super Y League with Zardes.
Though both Ramirez and Ibarra text back and forth with Galaxy players, neither has engaged in any pre-match smack talk.
“Not right now,” Ibarra said with a laugh. “Maybe after the game."