For all the motivation he needs to inspire his new club against his former one, Carlos Ruiz failed to mention one possibility: sour grapes.
The Philadelphia Union forward created an uproar earlier this week when he commented on the dysfunction he perceives within his former team, the LA Galaxy. Ruiz said he believes the Union should fare well against his former side at PPL Park on Wednesday (7:30 pm ET/4:30pm PT, FOX Sports West).
“From my point of view, LA Galaxy is in trouble right now,” Ruiz told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week. “They’ve played more games than any other team. They are going to come here and try to do something about it, but we are in a better position than them. We’re going to try to play smart this game so we can be in first place in the East.”
He further explained that the Galaxy are not “good like everyone thinks” and that they “don’t do anything spectacular.”
Ruiz, of course, has a long history with the Galaxy, some of it good, some of it not so good.
The Guatemalan striker exploded on the MLS scene when he joined the Galaxy in 2002. That year, he was named the League MVP and he won the Golden Boot on the back of a 24-goal season that helped the Galaxy win their first MLS Cup. He won a second Golden Boot with LA in 2003, after scoring 15 goals.
However, all those gems did not maintain a happy marriage with the Galaxy. In 2005, the Galaxy traded Ruiz to FC Dallas in return for the number one spot in the allocation draft, which LA used shortly thereafter to bring Landon Donovan back to MLS.
Obviously, the Galaxy have enjoyed having Donovan. But Dallas also reaped the benefits of having Ruiz — especially when they faced the Galaxy. He tallied three goals in eight games against the Galaxy — including a strike in October 2006 in a win that simultaneously helped Dallas clinch a playoff spot and eliminated LA from contention.
But a year or so later, after the 2007 season, Ruiz was headed back to the Galaxy. When Dallas struck a deal with LA for cash considerations, Ruiz could not hide his enthusiasm about returning to the club that made him a star.
“I still think the Galaxy is the best team in the US," Ruiz said in a 2008 interview with Soccer365.com. "They’re the best organization. The Galaxy have always had famous players. They continue to be a team that people always follow. In the end, it’s the same. The team tries to win, we try to play good football. Players have come and players have gone, but the idea is the same.”
Things didn't work out, though. A knee injury in the 2008 season opener kept Ruiz from reclaiming his place in then-coach Ruud Gullit's Galaxy side and created an opening at forward that Edson Buddle seized. At the end of the 2008 season, Bruce Arena, who replaced Gullit, traded Ruiz to Toronto FC to make room for another US international, midfielder Eddie Lewis.
After leaving MLS to try his hand at international competition over the past two seasons, Ruiz now finds himself facing the club that once made him a star and twice shed him aside. While he first and foremost will focus on supporting the Union's efforts to overtake the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference, one should express no surprise if the Philly forward also sees Wednesday's contest as a personal matter.