Christian "Superman" Ramirez, and Miguel "Batman" Ibarra (as they are referred to by their club fans) have several things in common. Both are Southern California Natives, college soccer standouts, members of Minnesota United FC, SoCal Premier Alum, and both are in the national team picture.
Miguel Ibarra is a name that has been popping up recently in several football circles. He has been playing extremely well for Minnesota United FC, his performances have earned him multiple USMNT call ups in the past few months, and he recently received his first two caps for the 'Stars and Stripes'.
Miguel honed his skills in a rural suburb 70 miles north of Los Angeles called the Antelope Valley. The AV consists of several towns (Palmdale, Lancaster, Quartz Hill, Littlerock, Lake LA, and a few other small towns). I doubt most of you have visited the AV, and if you have, it was most likely a brief visit to the Lancaster National Soccer Center and back.
If there is one thing to know about the Antelope Valley, it is an area known to harbor diamonds in the rough. In the past 8 years alone no less than 7 players were drafted by MLS clubs, and several others not drafted still went on to have professional careers. Some of these standouts include:
What makes Ibarra's journey special is that he didn't play for a "Big Name" team until his Junior year of college. He played for a local youth club, then played for a respectable but remote Junior College, and then finally moved on to the University of California Irvine.
After standing out for the Anteaters he was drafted by the Portland Timbers but didn't make the squad. From there he was picked up by Minnesota United FC, and his career has since taken off. Before his "breakout" season with Minnesota last year, he played in the SoCal Premier with a team that went on to win the title that year in the Premier Division. It was in the SoCal Premier that the potency of the partnership between him and fellow standout Christian Ramirez became very apparent to those that were lucky enough to catch their matches during this time.
Christian Ramirez was born and raised in Orange County. His journey was almost the inverse from Ibarra in that he burst onto the scene in the limelight as a youth player. He then hit a roadblock, but his decision to join a lesser known college program helped him develop into the star he is today.Ramirez was a standout youth player in high school, and dealt considerable damage to opponents in his Freshman and Sophomore years via 35 goals and 18 assists. Then when faced with the choice of year around high level club soccer, or seasonal club followed by high school soccer, he chose the former. He was eventually recruited to play for UC Santa Barbara. There he endured a frustrating time due to personal reasons, and perhaps not being the right fit for the system and coaching staff at the time. He decided to return home to Orange County, and enroll in a small private Christian University named Concordia. It was here that Ramirez regained his confidence, and his love for the game. He went on to have two record setting All-American seasons.
After performing so well in his final two years of college, he received invitations to trial with the Charlotte Eagles of the USL and Minnesota United of the NASL. Charlotte was able to secure his services first, and he went on have a successful season there notching several goals, and helping his team reach the USL final. It was there that he really opened some eyes with a multiple goal performance that unfortunately was not enough on its own to secure the title. After the season was over he headed back to Orange County, and began playing in the SCP where he met up with an old teammate that he played with a couple summers back in a college development league; Miguel Ibarra.
After setting the SCP alight with their partnership, and going on to win the league, Ibarra convinced Ramirez to give Minnesota a try. The rest… “you can read in the papers”. His performances have garnered the eye of Jurgen Klinsman, and while he has yet to be called up, the USMNT coaching staff is very aware of his abilities.
These ties to the professional game and the USMNT are pretty extraordinary. These three gentlemen were noticed for their skills on the pitch. Our next SCP alum has become famous for his skills off of it.
Continued in Part III…