He’s Baaaack

Carlos Ruiz

Guatemalan striker Carlos Ruiz, who qualifies as one of the Top 5 villains in MLS history for his dive-y, cheap-shotting, continuously complaining style of play, is back in the league again for the first time since 2011.

DC United acquired the scrappy forward through the league’s allocation process—an acquisition mechanism for former MLSers who left for a transfer fee or U.S. internationals.

Apparently—and somewhat surprisingly given Ruiz’s MLS strike rate—multiple teams ahead of DC in the allocation order passed on the player.

Sure, Ruiz sometimes provokes opponents into rages in which they are prone to doing things like this*:

But he is a proven goalscorer who, at 33, probably has a good season or two left. It’s surprising that a bunch of teams would pass on him. In 2002, Ruiz scored 24 goals for LA and won the regular-season and MLS Cup MVP awards, leading the Galaxy to their first MLS championship. He is ninth all time on the MLS goalscoring list and during his last spell in the league, in 2011 with Philadelphia, he bagged six goals in 14 appearances before jumping to Mexican side Veracruz.

He also has an impressive 54 goals in 104 international appearances for Guatemala.

Should be interesting to see how he and his sometimes devious ways fit in with DC and their straight-shooting coach, Ben Olsen.

*We in no way condone Clark’s outrageous behavior in the above clip, but two thoughts on the incident: One, it’s the only time Clark has ever done something even remotely like that in his career, and we’d be willing to wager Ruiz did something fairly objectionable to provoke it. Two, notice how Ruiz grabs his head and starts rolling around in apparent agony—after the blow clearly struck him in the shoulder. El Pescadito, he’s a slippery one.

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In Other CONCACAF Qualifying, Carlos Ruiz Scored a Golazo

Guatemala squeaked by the surprisingly competitive Antigua and Barbuda 1-0 courtesy of this lasered volley from former MLSer Carlos Ruiz (never mind the anticlimactic announcing):

Click here for the CONCACAF standings after four games. Mexico is through in Group B, with El Salvador and Costa Rica battling for second; Panama leads Group C, with Honduras edging Canada for second on goal difference—and preparing to meet them in a decisive Oct 16 game.

MLS Roundup: Pavel Pardo, New Argentine DP, and Saborio’s Historic Suspension

While we wait for Jurgen Klinsmann to announce his first selection of players as coach of the U.S.—which is scheduled to happen tomorrow—let’s catch up on MLS news, of the off-field variety (for our wrap-up of the most recent on-field action, see here).

The biggest development of the past week was Chicago’s signing of Mexican international Pavel Pardo, a long-rumored acquisition that finally came to pass on July 26.

The deal is only for the remainder of the 2011 season, and Pardo was not signed as a Designated Player. Those two elements suggest that the Fire wants to see how much the 35-year-old midfielder has left in the tank; it could be a three-month audition for DP satus next season.

Pardo, who retired from international play in 2009, suited up for the Mexican national team 148 times, and appeared in the 1998 and 2006 World Cups.

•••

In New England, the Revolution announced the signing of the first Designated Player in club history, a 22-year-old Argentine striker named Milton Caraglio.

Caraglio comes to Foxborough from Argentine club Rosario Central, where he scored 11 goals in 49 appearances in Argentina’s top flight. He sat out most of the 2009-10 season with a knee injury.

Caraglio has been called to the Argentina national team once, in 2009, but could not participate because of the knee injury.

•••

This past Friday, the MLS Disciplinary Committee made league history by not only fining Real Salt Lake striker Alvaro Saborio $1,000 for his apparent dive against San Jose last week but also suspending the Costa Rican for one game. It’s the first such suspension in 16 years of MLS action.

Here’s the play:

The punishment comes roughly one month after D.C. United forward Charlie Davies was fined, but not suspended, for an even more egregious dive against … Real Salt Lake, of all teams.

RSL fans may gripe that Davies wasn’t suspended, but we like this move, and would wager that it proves effective in stopping future cases of simulation. Saborio sat out RSL’s game this past weekend against Columbus. His absence, along with that of Jamison Olave, who was hurt in the All-Star Game, no doubt contributed to the Crew’s 2-0 victory, a rare home loss for RSL.

•••

From Philadelphia comes word that striker Carlos Ruiz, the Union’s leading scorer with six goals, is set to leave the team and join Veracruz of the Mexican second division.

The reason he’s leaving is as strange as the move is sudden: According to coach Peter Nowak, it’s because of the Union’s fans’ attitude toward Ruiz. Really.

Here’s what the coach said when the transfer was announced:

“There were a lot of fans, even in the stands here, that have a pre-bias towards Carlos, and made some bad comments about him being a diver, or this, or that, not working hard enough, and all these little things. It was getting tiring to all of us.”

Of course, Ruiz is a diver, and a bit of a dirty player as well, but he’s also the team’s leading scorer and probably a guy you’d want on your side for the homestretch of the season.

So what we have here, apparently, is another chapter in the long, sad legacy of Philadelphia fans misbehaving, losing sight of their own self-interests, alienating players, and ruining things for their fellow fans.

On the bright side, if the Union’s fans are acting like their Phillies, Eagles, and Flyers brethren, maybe it’s a sign that Philadelphia has truly embraced MLS.

MLS Roundup: El Pescadito Returns; Playoffs Revamped

On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Union announced the signing of well-traveled 31-year-old Guatemalan striker Carlos Ruiz, who had been training with the club in presesason.

Ruiz comes to Philly on loan from Greek club Aris, and if he can recapture even 50% of his 2002 form with the Los Angeles Galaxy, he’ll be great value for the Union.

That season, El Pescadito scored a blazing 24 goals in 26 regular-season games, then added an MLS playoff-record eight goals and two assists in the postseason to lead the Galaxy to the final against New England. LA won the title game 1-0 with Ruiz scoring the goal in overtime.

His MLS Cup–winner is not on the InterWebs for some reason (the Backpost intern couldn’t find it anyway), but here’s Ruiz scoring a hat-trick for the Galaxy in a 2008 exhibition against Shanghai, with the first one coming off an effortless, inch-perfect chip from David Beckham:

That was from Ruiz’s second stint with Los Angeles; his first one ended in 2005, after which he went to FC Dallas for three years.

His return to Los Angeles was hampered by a knee injury, and the Galaxy traded him to Toronto FC in August of 2008. The Reds released him at the end of that season, and he’s since had stints with Olimpia Asuncion of Paraguay, Mexican side Puebla, and Aris.

On Wednesday, MLS unveiled its expanded playoff format, which looks like this:

The top three teams in each conference will get automatic bids to the postseason, and then the next four best teams—regardless of conference affiliation—will play one-game, wild-card play-in matches (seven-seed vs ten; eight vs nine). The wild cards will then get re-seeded, if necessary, so that the lowest surviving seed meets the Supporters’ Shield winner (top overall seed) in the conference semifinals.

Got that?

As before, the conference semifinals will be home-and-away aggregate series, and the conference finals and MLS Cup will be one-game battles.

Many, many people have a huge problem with the new format and with the MLS playoffs in general. We don’t. Until MLS gets promotion-relegation (and perhaps another extra-league competition beyond the CONCACAF Champions League), playoffs are the way to go. Otherwise you risk loads of meaningless games late in the season.

Soccer America‘s Paul Gardner makes a nice case for what’s right and what’s wrong about the MLS playoffs right here.

We don’t often agree with Gardner—whose columns sometimes read like a series of “harrumph, harrumph harrumphs” to us—but we think he nailed it on this one, especially regarding the arbitrary geographic designations of the conferences.

Worried that an Eastern team might win the Western Conference title due to the quirky nature of the MLS playoffs? Rename the conferences, sans geography, and … problem solved.

In other MLS news, the league is reviewing the incident that got New England players Shalrie Joseph and Kevin Alston sent home from training camp last weekend. Apparently, Joseph was arrested for trespassing at the team hotel. Details remain scarce, but the plot thickens slightly.