The USMNT striker pool is in a sad state and there could possibly be a player out there in an unexpected place who could help improve it.
Jurgen Klinsmann has made many mind-boggling decisions during his reign as United States boss. One that was very controversial at the time it was made was when he called Miguel Ibarra into the USMNT fold. Why was bringing one player to a couple of meaningless friendlies in October of 2014 extraordinary? Because at the time Ibarra played in the North American Soccer League (NASL), the second tier of the American soccer pyramid.
Ibarra was starring in virtual anonymity for Minnesota United when his shock call-up to the USMNT was leaked. Mad scrambles to Google and YouTube ensued to find out who he even was.
There's another player at Minnesota United that Klinsmann claimed he was keeping tabs on when he called up Ibarra. Christian Ramirez took the NASL by storm in 2014. After becoming Minnesota United's starting striker early in that year, Ramirez took advantage of his opportunity by banging in a league-best 20 goals. Some of the goals he was scoring from his center forward position were otherworldly. This extravagant bicycle kick goal against Indy Eleven was the pick of the bunch, one that landed on him many of highlight shows at the time.
After capturing the league's Golden Boot award among many honors in his rookie campaign, Ramirez followed it up in 2015 with a modest 13 goal output earning him NASL Best XI honors.
It's his big body up top and knack for finishing that makes him stand out among his peers at the striker position. In Minnesota's first match of this season, Ramirez once again pulled off a sensational goal with a finish you normally see in the top leagues in Europe.
Usually when we see these types of finishes in the Premier League, La Liga, etc. we look at them with envious thoughts of 'why can't any Americans do stuff like this?' -- Well here is an American that has the skills to pull off these types of audacious finishes.
The NASL isn't the most competitive league in the world. It's likely the main reason for Klinsmann not calling up the 24-year-old (turns 25 on April 4). At some point competition becomes a moot point with some of these goals. The quality of these finishes would be impressive against imaginary players in the backyard, let alone against actual human beings in a real life soccer match.
The USMNT's striker pool is pretty much down to bare bones at the moment. Aron Johannsson has been hurt for two years. Jordan Morris is still unproven. Gyasi Zardes continues to embarrass himself in new ways every time he gets an undeserved cap. Chris Wondolowski is still getting call-ups for World Cup qualifiers. That's how thin our striker pool is.
Christian Ramirez would not solve the USMNT's striker issues. But, he at the very least deserves a chance the next time Klinsmann can experiment with call-ups. The last two January camps would've been perfect to give a player like this a look and instead we've seen basically the same faces get called up.
If Miguel Ibarra can get a look playing in the NASL, there's absolutely no reason not to give a player like Ramirez, who plays in a position of dire need, a look when the time is right. The player pool was supposed to turn over after the 2014 World Cup, yet we're still stuck with the same veteran role players two years later who offer very little in the way of actual productivity. It's time for fresh faces and Christian Ramirez is a prime candidate with moments of brilliance like these and a solid overall scoring record.