Changes at forward continue to dominate D.C. United’s limited offseason roster shuffle. On Wednesday, United landed Guatemalan forward Carlos Ruiz via the allocation process.
Ruiz, 33, was Major League Soccer MVP in 2002 and has 88 regular season goals – ninth in MLS history – with four different teams over eight seasons in MLS. Ruiz was most recently with Veracruz in Mexico and has also played in his native Guatemala, Paraguay and Greece.
Ruiz is the Guatemalan national team’s most decorated player, having scored 55 times. He captained the team and scored the opening goal in the U.S. national team’s 3-1 victory last October in the previous round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
Ruiz was at his best with the Los Angeles Galaxy from 2002-04, scoring 50 goals in three seasons. He added another 31 in the next three years with FC Dallas. He played briefly for Toronto in 2008 and most recently in MLS with Philadelphia in 2011, where he scored six goals in 13 games.
As efficient as he once was scoring, Ruiz gained the nickname “El Pescadito” – or “The Little Fish” – for the theatrics he uses to draw fouls and constantly frustrate opponents. To date, it certainly hasn’t made him well-liked in Washington.
“I have always like what Carlos has been about,” D.C. United coach Ben Olsen said in a statement. “He is a monster of a competitor and hopefully he can take our attack to the next level.”
With that in mind, how will Ruiz fare with D.C. United? Well, it’s been a long time since he played regularly and was a leading scorer in MLS. He’s younger than Dwayne De Rosario but the amount that he’s bounced around is strange.
That said, if he hasn’t lost his touch and is willing to work off the ball, Ruiz could quickly supplant Lionard Pajoy as United’s top forward. It won’t take much to be more efficient. He could also play the role of mentor for Rafael. He might also energize United’s Latino fan base following the departure of Andy Najar.
As soon as he scores for the first time, any lingering distaste of his past work is likely to go out the window. But even if it has some initial allure, Ruiz’s arrival doesn’t set up like something United has had in the works for a long time. And that strategy has been consistent throughout the offseason.