By Gabe Zitrin, photo by Alaina Preston
Since its founding, San Francisco has been a place where people come to pursue what hasn’t worked out elsewhere quite the way they’d hoped, and the number of them who put down roots here is a testament to the success they find. The City hands down tales of miners and musicians, but its legacy of athletes’ dreams leading them here is just as strong.
Davi Ramos’ path to San Francisco was a winding one, and as he’s just 22 no one can say where it will end, but 2017 has been a success so far as he leads San Francisco City FC in scoring as they’ve pushed into playoff position in the Premier Development League Southwest Division midway through the season. With five goals in SF City’s last five games, his emergence has been among the most noticeable parts of the Iron and Gold’s run of form. He sat down with sfcityfc.com to talk about the long path to his exciting month, and where it might lead.
The University of San Francisco forward began his journey in his native Sao Paolo, Brazil, a fan of the historic Sao Paolo FC. At 16, noting that friends and teammates were finding unexpected playing opportunities in the United States, he tried out for one of the companies that can help place high school- and college- age Brazilian players with American schools, and soon found himself in Fayetteville, North Carolina, joining the state’s rapidly expanding soccer scene as a high school junior. “Soccerwise, it’s much more fast-paced, the game, less technical, more physical,” Ramos said of what he found there. “You need to think fast, you need to play fast. A lot of Brazilians that come over here, that’s one of the main things that they have trouble with. The time on the ball is not the time you have in Brazil.”
Two State Championships and a NSCAA High School Scholar All-American nod later, Ramos had a number of options for continuing on in the NCAA, eventually declining to pursue opportunities at North Carolina, Memphis, and Michigan State to head to Raleigh and the North Carolina State Wolfpack. At NC State he enjoyed a lot of playing time as a freshman but ran into his first major speed bump: the coaching staff wanted to see him playing more with his back to goal as a hold-up forward.
“It was really good to play in the ACC, a lot of guys that I played against are now playing in MLS, so it’s nice to see them do big things,” he says, but “I didn’t really like playing as a 9, and the style the coach played didn’t really fit the style I played.” SF City fans will surely notice that they haven’t seen him deployed in that role for head coach Paddy Coyne, who allows Ramos more freedom to create chances for himself on the ball. “After the Fall, I was already saying, should I leave, should I not? I had a talk with the coaches and told them I wanted to see how Spring went. In the Spring I decided that it was the best thing for me to leave, because of the style of play.”
With the success he’d had as a freshman, even in a position that wasn’t ideal, Ramos could have looked anywhere for a transfer, but like so many others, his dreams drew him West. “I just decided to come to California. I’d been already three years in North Carolina and wanted a change, so I emailed a lot of schools in California with my [NCAA] release papers, and I had my video, and got offers from a couple of them. Eddie Soto had just left UCLA and he was the brand new coach here, so I had the chance to be in the first incoming class for him.”
USF’s location proved to be a benefit, too. “The people in San Francisco are really different,” Ramos says of the experience. “They’re really accepting, they don’t judge you, you can be whatever you want to be.” But Ramos’ first year at USF, as a sophomore, also brought major speed bump number two: a dislocated kneecap and partially torn patellar tendon. But after missing just seven games, he was able to finish out the season on a high note, scoring in his first two games back. He also found his first opportunity in the PDL later in his USF career, but it might surprise some SF City fans that when he first became familiar with SF City is was as an opponent with the rival Burlingame Dragons.
After graduating from USF in December following a strong senior season, Ramos played his first professional soccer with América Pernambuco in Brazil, but with the rapid expansion of the PDL and the increasing quality of play, he wanted back into the league, and had an idea which club he’d enjoy playing for. “I talked to Christian De Luna, I lived with him, and he talked to Paddy, and Paddy was really interested. I felt like he really wanted me here and that I could help the team.”
And where does he want his time and success at SF City to take him? “I want to play as a professional. That’s all I want. I’ve always wanted it.” His last five games have to have helped him in that pursuit, and the rest of the SF City season will see him running just as hard after his lifelong dream.