CHESTER, Pa. — After Roger Torres scored a stoppage-time goal in the Philadelphia Union’s 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids on Friday, the midfielder extended his hand above his head to look like a fish fin, mimicking Carlos’s Ruiz goal-scoring celebration.
It turned out to be a farewell tribute to Ruiz.
In a postgame press conference that was as dramatic as the Union’s final surge on the field, team manager Peter Nowak dropped the bombshell that Ruiz, one of the all-time leading scorers in MLS history, is on his way out of Philly.
Nowak did not reveal any specifics of the arrangement and Ruiz was not available for comment following the game, but, according to the manager, it’s only a matter of time until the parting is made official.
“We accept the offer from the club,” Nowak said vaguely. “Carlos is no longer going to be with us. We finalized the latest, but all the stuff right now will take a couple of weeks.”
While Ruiz did not play in Friday’s game and was not listed on the match-day roster, it wasn’t made immediately clear that it was anything more than the 31-year-old Guatemalan simply getting a night off.
It was only when a reporter asked an innocuous question on the Union missing scoring chances that Nowak began a circuitous diatribe that would lead to the revelation on Ruiz, as well as what appeared to be a portion of blame directed at Union fans for the star striker’s departure.
“I would say we didn’t have a problem to finish chances with Carlos Ruiz, and we missed him greatly – not only today but also in games we played without him,” Nowak said. “Whatever you guys say, whatever the fans’ pre-bias is, we’re all getting tired right now of saying what Carlos brings to the table. We had a lot of chances today in front of the goal that a guy like Carlos can finish.”
A reporter then asked why Nowak wasn’t in the lineup, which is when the manager continued to unleash into some of the club’s supporters, just as he announced the Ruiz decision.
“A lot of fans even in the stands have a pre-bias toward Carlos and make bad comments about him being a diver, being that, being that, not working hard, all these little things, and it was getting tired to us,” Nowak said. “I always believed fans in the stands will stand behind us and are going to cheer for us and all the players we have on the roster, and not having something against a single player. As I said, it’s an unfortunate thing.”
Ruiz may have drawn some ire from the fans at first, but he seemed to make an impression on them as the season went on. There had been some Mexican newspaper reports about the Guatemalan’s possible departure, but Ruiz, who leads the Union with six goals, quashed those rumors late last month.
Something, it would appear, changed since then. And the Union now need to find a way to replace the scoring touch of “El Pescadito.”
“It was a privilege to work with Carlos, and the guys in the locker room were disappointed when we came to this decision,” Nowak said. “As I said, it’s not finalized yet, but it’s going to be difficult to replace him.
“There was not part of us that thought Carlos didn’t bring anything to the table. From the minute he showed up in Florida in the preseason to today, we all cherish his work. And the goals he scored were amazing, all of them. But we’ve got to move forward. We’ve got to make sure the offer we accept that we replace him will be with good players.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.