If Carlos Ruiz was going to return to Major League Soccer, it was going to be with only one club—the same club he’s been in talks with for much of the past year.
“Obviously there were rumors about joining other teams, but I never spoke with any other team and was always in talks with Philadelphia Union,” Ruiz said on this week's Tiro Libre podcast on FutbolMLS.com, out on Wednesday. “I thought it was great to play for a city where they really appreciate our sport.”
Ruiz, a Guatemalan international, played seven seasons in MLS between 2002 and 2008. He scored 82 regular-season MLS goals, including 24 for the LA Galaxy in 2002, the year he won the Golden Boot and was named league MVP. His 15 goals in 2003 put him in a tie for the Golden Boot. He also has 16 playoff goals to his name.
The 31-year-old striker started talking with Union manager Peter Nowak about coming to Philly last year while playing for Mexican club Puebla early in 2010. After signing with Greek SuperLiga club Aris FC in July, talks cooled down for a while, but Nowak and Ruiz—with additional help from Diego Gutiérrez, the Union’s head of scouting and player development—finally made the marriage work last week when the Union agreed with Aris on a free transfer.
“We started conversations once again in December and we were able to work out a contract when I traveled to Orlando and had some time with the team there,” Ruiz said. “We agreed on the terms and reached a good agreement.”
Ruiz’s return to the league got off to a booming start as he scored the team’s only goal in a 1-1 tie draw with Greek club Ergotelis FC in Monday’s exhibition.
For Ruiz, it’s all about doing whatever he can to help the team win—whether it’s putting the ball in the back of the net or, yes, trying to draw a foul. The Guatemalan's nickname, after all, is El Pescadito, or “Little Fish,” which, although given to him when he was 11, fits his career-long propensity to flop.
“I understand when people talk about me falling so easily, but you [play] soccer how you want to,” Ruiz said. “And even though I’m not saying that what I do is a positive thing, in soccer you have to use all the weapons you can use to win.
“I do hope the league doesn’t have that image of me [as a flopper]. Still, if it’s a foul, you are probably going to see me on the ground.”
For Ruiz, the nickname works well. That’s probably because he knows it could be worse.
“My nickname comes from Guatemala, where the fans from Municipal create songs based on the players’ nicknames,” he explained on Tiro Libre. “I was lucky to get El Pescadito because there are others that are named La Rana [The Toad], El Sapo [The Frog] or La Culebra [The Snake]. I wouldn’t have liked any of those.”
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