Three for Thursday: MLS exports set for a welcome return
Like him or not, Carlos Ruiz has returned to MLS for his third stint in the league. And even age 33 and a year removed from his last professional game, his impressive scoring record in MLS (ninth in all-time goals) and elsewhere indicates he may still have something to give to the league.
Though Ruiz is certainly one of the most recognizable prodigal sons to return to the league, there are plenty more out there, and it got me thinking, "Who else could make a triumphant return to MLS?"
There are obviously plenty of American players who could do it, so let's look at some of the foreign players MLS has exported with success (there are plenty). I won't count players on loan that are still under contract – as nice as it would be to have Carlos Valdés, Kei Kamara and Fredy Montero back in the league right now, there is still a concrete possibility of some or all them returning once their loan deals are up.
These are some of MLS top foreign exports who have been out of the league for a few years and have not only kept up a strong level of play, but could continue to do so if they return to MLS. And it's by no means comprehensive, so chime in with your own suggestions in the comments section below!
The Armenian international left MLS on a high note, having just won a championship after enjoyed a promising career with Kansas City and Real Salt Lake, culminating in an MLS Cup with RSL, before his move to Danish side Randers.
Since his move, he has moved steadily up the soccer pyramid, signing with Russian outfit Krasnodar for 2011 and '12 before linking up with one of the country's biggest clubs, Spartak Moscow, back in December. Additionally, he's evolved into a solid contributor for the upstart Armenian national team, netting five goals in 18 caps since declaring for the country of his ancestry.
Given his current career path, he likely won't be coming back to MLS any time soon, but the Southern California-raised striker would certainly be a welcome – and valuable – addition to the league should he choose to return.
Rogelio Funes Mori
OK, so he didn't actually sign a pro contract or play in the league, but it would be fun to see the one-time FC Dallas Academy man and second-ever Sueño MLS winner come back and show what he has to offer.
What makes this more intriguing is that Funes Mori, who spent seven years living in the US as a youngster, has been the subject of rumors that USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann is interseted in calling him up. Whether he will switches allegiances from his native Argentina (for whom he has appeared at the U-20 level and in a senior friendly) is another question entirely.
Regardless, and like Movsisyan, we may have to wait a while to see this one happen. Funes Mori is still very much a part of a resurgent River Plate squad and despite time on the bench and criticism from fans for inconsistency, the Argentine giants can afford to be patient with him at age 21. Still, it could prove quite the homecoming if his career were to come full circle.
Like Funes Mori, Tejada is here not so much for his MLS accomplishments than what he's done since then, though unlike the young Argentine, he did play professionally in the league.
Unfortuantely for Tejada and Real Salt Lake, it was just for one goalless game in 2007. Shortly thereafter, the journeyman striker and 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup MVP moved on, first back to his native Panama and then on to South America, where he's forged a successful career with América de Cali (Colombia) and Juan Aurich (Peru), before a move back north to Toluca, where he's been since summer 2012.
Of course, MLS fans probably recognize him more for his exploits in CONCACAF play, where he has been one of Panama's most feared goalscorers, netting 34 goals in 69 caps, including four in 2014 World Cup qualifying.
At age 30, the man nicknamed "El Matador" would be on the older side if he comes to the league, but if the likes of Jerry Bengtson and Tejada's countryman Blas Pérez are any indication, there surely would be a place for him on an MLS team in need of a proven poacher up front.