Veteran forward Carlos Ruiz is leaving the Philadelphia Union, manager Peter Nowak announced after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids at PPL Park.
Although Nowak strongly praised Ruiz’s skills on the field, he cited off-the-field issues as the reason for Ruiz’s departure.
Here is a transcript of what Nowak had to say in his postgame press conference. He was first asked about whether he was frustrated with the Union’s inability to finish chances in Saturday’s game:
We never had a problem finishing those chances with Carlos Ruiz. We missed him greatly today, not only today but also in the game we’ve played without him. Whatever you guys have said, whatever fans were pre-biased toward him, I think we were all getting tired of that after seeing what Carlos was bringing to the table.
We had a lot of chances today in front of the goal that a guy like Carlos can finish. It’s a stat that we need to improve, and this kind of player is greatly missed.
Nowak was then asked whether Ruiz’s absence tonight was a one-time decision, or something bigger:
All of us looked at the whole picture before Carlos arrived. My message to him and the conversations we’ve been through were that he was going to be different than he was in Toronto, Dallas or L.A., and I think he embraced in a great way, as a really true professional, the way he was supposed to play.
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, and we accepted an offer from a club. Carlos is no longer going to be with us. We are finalizing stuff right now, it’s probably going to take a couple of weeks.
We are all getting tired of this stuff. Finishing the chances we have, yes, it’s a problem. It’s not a problem - it’s to have the killer instinct that Carlos possesses. We will make a further announcement later, but as of now, this is the situation.
Nowak was then asked how difficult it was to trade Ruiz, given what he has done for the Union in his short time with the club:
It was a privilege to work with Carlos, and many of those guys in the locker room were disappointed when we came to the decision. It’s not finalized yet, but I think it’s going to be difficult to replace him.
But as I said, I always believe that the fans in the stands, the guys who are standing behind us, they’re going to cheer for us, they’re going to behind all 15, 20, 23, 28 players who we have on the roster - not about having something against a single player.
It’s an unfortunate thing, but I think for all of us that we’ve got to move forward. We’ve got to get players who are going to be in place to score goals. So it was not part of us who thought that Carlos didn’t bring anything to the table.
I think that from the minute he showed up in Florida in preseason, to today, we all cherished his work. We know that he’s a guy who’s going to do everything for the team, and the goals he scored for the team were amazing - all of them. That’s the part that’s missing.
But we’ve got to move forward, and we’ve got to make sure that after the offer we accepted, that we’re going to replace him with good players.
Yes, this is one of those times when Nowak's broken English is an issue. My interpretation of Nowak's remarks is that although he saw a lot of potential in Ruiz, he also was tacitly acknowledging that some of the criticisms out there were accurate, and that Ruiz did not improve on some of the issues he had with the other teams in MLS that he has played for.
Nowak is not known for being a very lenient manager, whether regarding on-the-field performance or off-the-field character. He has given more leash to Ruiz than anyone else I can ever remember him managing, including (especially including) Freddy Adu.
Having said that, it's hard to not take Nowak's words at face value to some degree. Criticizing fans in this town is never a good idea, even to a minor degree, and even if the inevitable reaction is overdone.
Ask Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who I would argue still has not completely lived down his remark in August of 2008 that Philadelphia fans are "frontrunners."
(Yeah, I just said that. Maybe it's because I've had people in my Phillies chats say the Phillies should get rid of him and acquire the Mets' Jose Reyes as a replacement, but the feeling has been stuck in my head for a while.)
I just can't fathom that fans' opinion is the only reason, or even the real reason, why Ruiz is gone. I have seen too much of Ruiz's career, and too much of Nowak's career, to not think that this has been coming for a while.
We'll see where it goes from here, and whether Nowak tries to walk back his comments given how they are being perceived by Union fans. He's said a lot of very nice things about you all in the past, and I don't think this is going to change his mind.
What do you think of Ruiz's departure, and Nowak's remarks? Have your say in the comments. I'll be back later tonight with more postgame reactions from the Union locker room.