LOS ANGELES — Certain opponents can bring out the best in a player. For some, like LAFC midfielder Benny Feilhaber against Real Salt Lake, the matchup can be driven by history and intensity from when he was a standout at Sporting Kansas City.
For others, facing a certain team can just mean good performances — even if they can’t exactly explain why.
The latter is the case with RSL and Christian Ramirez.
“I wouldn’t put a specific on it,” the striker told MLSsoccer.com Tuesday after finding the back of the net several times during a focused training session. “[RSL] like to play a similar style to what I like to match up against. I just, for whatever reason, found good movement against them and hopefully that’s a momentum that can be carried over.”
Then, in his first start for his new club, the Southern California native notched both goals in a 2-0 victory over RSL at Banc of California Stadium in August.
“I came in at a time where I think it was six games where they hadn’t gotten a win and was able to take part in turning that around and so I did my part,” Ramirez said of his last performance against the team that will visit The Banc again for a Knockout Round game Thursday (10:30 pm ET | ESPN2, UniMás, TVAS, TSN).
But the LAFC boss insists the personnel decisions for Thursday’s game — and any others LAFC might have in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs — will be dictated by the way play unfolds.
“We’ve got different options based upon what the game looks like,” Bradley said of his attacking choices. “We feel good that we can use different guys to affect the game in different ways so that’s something that we’ve tried to do throughout the year.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the form of Diomande, Ureña, and Ramirez — and indeed their individual attributes — might have less to do with who’s getting minutes than how well they link up with the lynchpin of the LAFC attack: Carlos Vela.
“Our attacking ideas start with the decision on how to use Carlos,” Bradley said. “We’ve played different ways throughout the season. We’ve used him as a No. 10 where we get strong play from both sides of the field and then we’ve also played with more of a standard midfield three and given Carlos freedom, but played him in the front group.”
If Ramirez is going to get his first taste of MLS postseason action, it will be in a situation where the coaching staff sees an opportunity for him to compliment the ways Vela and the others on the pitch are performing at any given moment of a match.
In the meantime, Ramirez — who has settled nicely into his off-field life in Los Angeles with family close by — continues to work hard in training and believes the goals he scores there matter too, in their own way.
“[Training] like [today] where you can turn that competition level up, see the ball go in the back of the net and get that confidence rolling, is very valuable if you get thrown into the lineup,” Ramirez said. “We know it’s not just one individual who is going to take us to an MLS Cup. It’s a tough road to get there so everybody has bought in and is ready for when they’re name is called.”
While he stays prepared in the present, Ramirez also remains patient and focused on getting minutes with LAFC, not just this postseason but in the coming years as well.
“That’s a goal I have,” Ramirez said. “Not just short term, but long term — to show this club that I can be a piece moving forward.”