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The brief LA Galaxy heyday and swift fall of Pando Ramirez

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From unlikely MLS Cup MVP to banned for life.

San Jose Earthquakes v Los Angeles Galaxy Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Thursday was the 42nd birthday of Guillermo “Pando” Ramirez. His name is in the LA Galaxy record books as the player who scored the winning goal in the 2005 MLS Cup, but his one-year stint in MLS does not begin to tell the whole story on Ramirez.

Starting his career in his native Guatemala with Municipal in 1996, Ramirez became a journeyman on multiple continents, playing a year in Greece, then spending a couple years in Mexico for Atlante and Chiapas, before returning for another stint at Municipal.

In 2005, the Galaxy signed Ramirez on loan, and while he was expected to be a scorer, he couldn’t find his footing in MLS and after notching a paltry one goal and one assist in the regular season, Ramirez was benched and it seemed his future was not in Los Angeles.

But then...with the Galaxy desperate in MLS Cup, head coach Steve Sampson threw Ramirez on off the bench with the game 0-0. Deep in extra time, Ramirez hit the vital goal to fire LA to the title.

While he headed out of MLS on top, Ramirez was not retained after the season and he returned to Municipal for 2006. He won four more league titles there, before playing in Honduras and winning two league titles there.

But by that point, Pando’s career was on borrowed time. A fixture in the Guatemalan National Team, in 2010 he was alleged to have engaged in match-fixing on multiple games — two Guatemala friendlies and a Concacaf Champions League game for Municipal against Santos Laguna — along with two teammates. In 2012, the trio were banned for life by the Guatemalan FA and upheld globally by FIFA, with the global governing body later condemning a local court for ruling to overturn the lifetime bans.

No surprise, outside of Guatemala Ramirez’s profile has dropped off the map entirely. He’s still discussed and sometimes interviewed in his homeland from time to time, and his daughter appears to be a local social media star.

But Ramirez’s quixotic, if still rather successful, career came to a crashing halt in 2012. The moment of magic he brought to the 2005 MLS Cup will always be tarnished with the later match-fixing, and in some ways it just adds to the strange story of Pando Ramirez.

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