While preseason training continues at the LAFC Performance Center this week, several familiar faces have been missing from the lineup — goalkeeper Tyler Miller, defender Walker Zimmerman and forward Christian Ramirez.
The trio isn’t far away, only a two-hour drive down the 5 at the Olympic training center in Chula Vista, where the United States men’s national team is training in its annual January camp. Zimmerman has become a more veteran presence at the national team camps — with four caps to his name — but Ramirez’ call-up came as a surprise to some.
The forward has long fielded questions about his ability to compete as a striker at a high level, despite the fact that he’s scored 23 goals over the last two MLS seasons. In his second call-up to the U.S. national team, Ramirez was welcoming the questions and hoping to prove each of them wrong by earning his first senior team cap at the end of the month
“I still use it as something that motivates me whenever I hear that,” Ramirez said during an interview with Goal earlier this week. “I even heard it now when I got called in. Can he do it at this level? It’s something that’s challenging and motivating, and is something that’s happened throughout my career. I’ve learned to use it in the right ways and I hope to show that on the day I hopefully get to put on these colors and continue to silence those people.”
Miller’s call-up was also his first, and timed when the U.S. team is definitely at a crossroads in the goalkeeper position. Although former star Tim Howard announced his future retirement this week, his international play ended in 2017, leaving the national team without a powerhouse in the net.
Without a World Cup bid this summer, the squad has been in fervent state of transition, and with the goal wide open, the 25-year-old Miller is perfectly poised to begin making a move toward a permanent position in the national team pool of keepers. Miller made 114 saves for the Black and Gold last year, holding 10 shutouts and only allowing 50 goals against throughout the team’s inaugural season.
“It’s been a good learning experience,” Miller said. “It’s obviously a new level for myself, but I feel like I’ve adapted well. I feel like everyone’s just kind of feeling each other out. We’ve really bonded together well off the field and on the field and I think you can see things are starting to flow and guys are really becoming more comfortable with playing together.”
At the culmination of the camp, the team will head to Glendale, Ariz., to play Panama on Jan. 27, then up to San Jose to play Costa Rica on Feb. 2. The pair of friendlies could give both Ramirez and Miller a chance to earn their first caps in the stars and stripes.