WASHINGTON – As soon as Carlos Ruiz arrived at D.C. United’s preseason camp in Florida, he walked over to team captain Dwayne De Rosario and had a chat. One decorated MLS veteran to another.
“The first thing he said to me was, ‘Anything you want me to do in terms of helping the younger guys and the team, I’m there for you,’” De Rosario said Tuesday in a crowded media room at RFK Stadium. “For him to say that to me means a lot and I know he’s coming here to do business. We’re happy to have him on board.”
Ruiz, who was acquired by the club through the league’s allocation process, said he was training by himself in Dallas during the offseason and was approached by a couple MLS teams, but “wanted to play for a team that was fighting for a championship.”
“The opportunity came and I’m very happy to be here,” Ruiz said. “I feel like I can bring experience. There are a lot of young players here, so I can teach what I’ve learned in my career and I can bring experience to the field.”
In addition to playing against De Rosario in the past, Ruiz also lined up opposite United coach Ben Olsen.
“I would always want a guy like that on my team,” Olsen said. “I didn’t even know that he had such a rep, but apparently he’s a controversial figure. It doesn’t take much to be controversial, but I love the guy. I think he’s a great guy, a great signing. The guys love him already. … He plays hard, he plays with passion and he wants to win for whoever’s uniform he’s wearing.”
Ruiz’ best season came in 2002 when he scored 24 goals en route to winning regular season and MLS Cup MVP awards with LA. Ruiz’s most recent stint in the league came with Philadelphia in 2011 before he was transferred to Mexico’s Veracruz. As had been the case all offseason, United were searching for depth and proven scorers at the forward position and if all things break the right way, Ruiz certainly could deliver in that regard.
“He’s a proven goalscorer,” said United midfielder Chris Pontius. “It’s a guy you want to have on your team and you don’t want to play against. Obviously, we need to get him fit and ready to go. It might take a little bit longer since he joined us later, but I like the idea.”
Olsen said Ruiz “has a ways” to go before he’s 90 minutes fit, but said he could probably play 10 to 15 minutes right now if called upon. Ruiz himself said he’s “going to need a couple weeks” to regain his fitness, but said he feels good overall and is excited to be in D.C.
“He’s a guy that, his real impact might not be shown in the first couple weeks, but as he gets fit and comfortable with our group, he’s a guy that can change games,” Olsen said. “In particular, if we’re lucky enough to get into the playoffs, he’s a guy that does some of his best work down the stretch when you need him and I thought we could have used a guy like him last year when we were in some real tough games down the stretch.”