To some Los Angeles Galaxy fans, forward Carlos Ruiz may seem like a fish out of water when he shows up on The Home Depot Center field Saturday wearing the red and white hoops of visiting FC Dallas.
For three years, Ruiz was the best player wearing green and gold, and he scored the goal that gave the Galaxy its only MLS Cup title in 2002. So it may seem awkward for Southland fans to witness Ruiz trying to do harm to the Galaxy in an early-season clash of the top two teams in the Western Conference. For Ruiz, this visit is mostly about business, but he'll be sure to pay homage to his aficionados.
"The only feeling will be for the Galaxy fans. They have been great with me and I'll always thank them for their support, but there is nothing other than that," Ruiz said. "I'm now in Dallas and I am very happy with my new team."
The more important aspect of Saturday's match, according to Ruiz and his FC Dallas teammates, is the possibility that the Hoops could establish themselves as the team to beat in the West. Dallas sits in first place coming into the weekend with 10 points from four matches, while the Galaxy are in second place with six points from three matches. A win will give Dallas a cushion and a confidence boost.
"I know Carlos is going to be ready for this match on Saturday and will be in the right frame of mind," said FCD head coach Colin Clarke. "It's a big game, not just for Carlos, but for everybody. They've had a great start and it should be a good game. We're looking forward to it."
Said Ruiz: "It is still very early in the season. It is going to be a very important game, but it's not a matter of life or death for either team. We are the top teams in the West and I am sure they want to win as bad as we do."
While Ruiz is shying away from turning this weekend's tilt into a grudge match, teammate Richard Mulrooney said he knows how important it would be for Ruiz to come away from his first match against his old club with a victory.
"He won a championship there and really established himself there," Mulrooney said. "I want to go out and work for him so that our team can get the best result possible for him. He's going to get some cheers and maybe even some jeers, but in the end if we can win I think that speaks for itself."
The importance of Saturday's match may have led Ruiz to rethink his recently announced decision that, in deference to his boosters in the stands, he will not celebrate if he scores. Just two days before the game, Ruiz changed his mind.
"That has changed," he said. "I will definitely celebrate if I score on Saturday."
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.