CHESTER, Pa. — Over the weekend, Philadelphia Union striker Carlos Ruiz played against former teammates, chatted with former fans and ran all around a field he used to call home.
But his trip to Southern California for last Saturday’s match against the LA Galaxy was just that—a trip. These days, the Union forward and ex-Galaxy star is more focused on building a new legacy, 3,000 miles from where he first showed this country what kind of player he is.
“I think after a couple more games, we’ll have the confidence to show everyone that Philadelphia has to be considered one of the best teams in Major League Soccer,” Ruiz recently told MLSsoccer.com.
The Union did not show that Saturday. Despite playing up a man for much of the second half, Ruiz and the Philly offense did not generate many good scoring chances in a 1-0 defeat to the Galaxy, their first loss of the season.
Ruiz, who played for LA from 2002 to 2005 and again in 2008, didn’t think the Union were bothered by Landon Donovan, David Beckham and the Galaxy’s other big-name stars. Instead, he thought the team’s problems were entirely of their own doing.
“We couldn’t go forward when they had 10 men,” he admitted. “We need to work on that. We don’t find space. We don’t play outside. We don’t open the field. We had 35 minutes to figure it out and we were not able to figure it out. We’re going to try to work it out so we don’t repeat the mistakes from LA.”
The Union will have a couple of immediate chances to correct their offensive woes this week, first with a US Open Cup play-in game vs. D.C. United on Wednesday in Boyds, Md., and then with a home game against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
Ruiz, who spent the past two seasons out of MLS, admitted he doesn’t know much about the Red Bulls, just as he doesn’t know many of the remaining players on the Galaxy from his stints in LA. But for the veteran striker, who has one goal on the season so far, that doesn’t matter.
[inline_node:331596]“I really don’t care about who is playing,” said Ruiz, who in his first year in MLS in 2002, was the league’s MVP and Golden Boot winner. “We have to know what the game plan is for that game and then try to show it. We have to be better. We have to learn from our mistakes and have to play every game better and better."
One thing Ruiz does know is that the atmosphere of Saturday’s game at PPL Park will be like nothing he’s ever experienced. The 31-year-old Guatemalan received a warm reception from Galaxy supporters over the weekend, but he reiterated his claim that the “fans in Philly are better than any other fans in Major League Soccer.”
“Here it’s more like Europe—all the time singing and supporting the team,” Ruiz said. “Over there [in Los Angeles], the people go to the stadium to watch the game and don’t do anything. I like it here. I feel more passion.”