BALDWINSVILLE — Sometimes, the path to a Ron Newman Cup can take you places you weren’t expecting. For Ben Ramin — Utica City FC defender from Baldwinsville — the path involved hitting the road to San Diego, California. Utica City FC loaned Ramin to the San Diego Sockers for the 2021 Major Arena Soccer League season, hoping to hook on with a winner heading into the playoffs.
The Sockers didn’t have a home venue to play in thanks to local and state COVID restrictions, which meant San Diego would wind up playing 17 matches, all away from home. Ramin’s first chance to play in front of Sockers fans came in the finals on April 18, when San Bernardino County allowed a crowd of 1,500 to attend, including 500 fans who made the trip from San Diego, seeing their team in person for the first time all season.
“It was awesome,” Ramin said of the experience. “You could even see the history [in the fans] wearing jerseys from the ‘80s and ‘90s, so that was interesting from my perspective.”
A former All-State player with Baldwinsville winning several sectional titles, Ramin went on to play at both Syracuse University and University of New Hampshire.
During his career as a defender, Ramin has demonstrated the ability to mark up a tough forward or to join the attack when the opportunity arises. In the 85 games he has played since 2017, Ramin has scored 24 goals and assisted another 18 goals.
Ramin was a key part of the roster when the Syracuse Silver Knights successfully partnered with the Utica Comets to form Utica City FC. Utica City FC won the MASL Eastern Division in their first season playing at the Adirondack Bank Center during the 2018-2019 season. The team’s playoff run was cut short the following season due to COVID-19 when the league was forced to shut down in March.
Without fan capacity allowed in New York State, Utica City FC was forced to make the tough call in March to opt out of the 2021 MASL campaign. Ben then got the call from the West Coast to come out and play on loan. He joined a club loaded with talent yet sitting in 6th place out of 7 teams looking for a spark. The roster was filled with players he’d largely never met. Joining Ben that week on loan was Nelson Santana and Baltimore Blast goalkeeper William Vanzela.
“I really only knew [former Syracuse Silver Knights captain] Nelson Santana,” said Ramin of the locker room he was walking into. “It was a whole new set of players, whole new set of coaches, but everyone was very welcoming. I was able to make friendships and bonds with everyone.”
Those bonds would be tested as the Sockers struggled through a 4-6 regular season to find their footing, and their identity. Ramin joined the club (along with Santana and Harrisburg forward Tavoy Morgan) in the midst of a four-match losing streak, ended only with a 9-4 win over Dallas in the regular season finale. Even so, the club was figuring out how to defend with passion, and find their spaces to attack.
“I knew we had what it would take to get to the end,” said Ramin.
Complicating things for the Utica loanee was an injury he suffered in training. It was up to Sockers trainers Paul Savage and Annemarie Alf to get Ramin back to playing form, which they accomplished quickly. Ramin featured in five of seven playoff matches including the final and was an important component in San Diego’s championship victory.
“Without [Paul and Annemarie], I don’t think we would have been able to go the distance,” said Ramin. “Without their level of commitment and professionalism, I don’t know if I would have been available for selection.”
The Sockers went 6-1 in the Ron Newman Cup playoffs, but there were few easy steps. The club went through four overtime matches and required a win in a 15-minute mini-game to clinch the championship. San Diego trailed the Ontario Fury 1-0 in the mini-game, rallying for a 2-1 win with a last-minute goal, and 54 seconds of furious defense against an extra attacker.
Now, Ramin returns to the East Coast, his loan fulfilled with dividends. He can return to UCFC knowing he’s gained invaluable experience that will come in handy as City looks to take the next step toward competing for a Ron Newman Cup of their own.
“Don’t get too high, don’t get too low,” said Ramin of the lessons learned. “Learn how to play a lead, and how to react when a team comes back and puts some goals against you. Not getting too far ahead of ourselves, or too beat up when we fell behind. You have to keep the same focus, and keep the same team belief, and I think that shined through and really helped our team close that whole series out to become champions.”