When the Los Angeles Football Club bought Christian Ramirez from Minnesota United last week the price was $1 million, rich by MLS standards.
“It’s humbling,” Ramirez said.
On Wednesday it also proved to be a bargain, with Ramirez scoring twice in the first 30 minutes of his first LAFC start to spark his new team to a 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake at Banc of California Stadium.
The win stopped a season-long five-game winless streak in all competition for LAFC (11-7-6), lifting it two spots up the Western Conference table and into a tie with Sporting Kansas City.
“Before the game, I challenged for more concentration, more intensity, more leadership, all of those things,” coach Bob Bradley said. “And then at halftime, I said we need a shutout. The players responded really well to the challenges.
“Tonight, there were a lot of positives.”
And the most positive thing was the play of Ramirez, who gave LAFC the only goal it would need in the 13th minute.
Ramirez staked his new team, playing for the fourth time in 10 days, to a 1-0 lead by finishing a sequence that began with midfielder Benny Feilhaber fighting off a challenge from Corey Baird in the Real Salt Lake end. Carlos Vela collected the loose ball and sent a long pass ahead for Ramirez, who split Real Salt Lake defenders Nick Besler and Shawn Berry before lifting a soft right-footed shot over keeper Nick Rimando.
Ramirez, given way too much space in the middle of the penalty area, doubled the lead 17 minutes later, left-footing in a low Eduard Atuesta feed from the left edge of the six-yard box.
“Great start for him,” Bradley said.
“He’s the one that, in the right moments, knows how to find space in the box. And he can score in different ways. That was apparent tonight.”
The two goals were twice as many as LAFC had scored in its last two MLS games — both losses — and it drove Rimando, who had played every minute for RSL this season, from the game at halftime with a left hamstring strain.
It could have been worse for RSL (10-10-5). Ramirez would have had his first MLS hat trick had his first-half header, which found the back of the net in the eighth minute, not been taken off the scoreboard when Vela was ruled offside.
Vela nearly got that goal back late in the second half but Andrew Putna, who replaced Rimando, denied him with a pair of splendid saves less than a minute apart. Seconds later Ramirez was subbed off to a warm ovation from a sellout crowd that included 14 friends and family members.
Asked if that was how he would have scripted his return to Southern California, Ramirez, who is from Garden Grove answered, “Yeah, but that first one would have counted. But I’ll take the two.”
LAFC keeper Tyler Miller, benched over the weekend for the first time this season, was back in the lineup Wednesday and responded with two tough saves to record his seventh shutout of the season and his first in a month. That ended a slump in which he had allowed 12 goals in four games.
“Those are the saves that can kind of change games,” Miller said.
Ramirez stepped up, too, with the two goals against RSL, his first since he scored twice for Minnesota against LAFC last month, starting the five-game slide he ended with another brace for his new team Wednesday.
“Something that I’ve learned over my career is, ‘Don’t dwell on anything, the next play is coming,’” Ramirez said.
Even if that next play winds up coming with a new team.