Carlos Ruiz was brought to Philadelphia to score goals, and the new Union forward understands his role in attempting to help the second-year Major League Soccer franchise contend for a playoff berth.
A native of Guatemala who has scored 41 goals for the national team, Ruiz returns this season to Major League Soccer after two years playing abroad. He signed with the Union in February on a free transfer from Greek SuperLiga club Aris FC.
"I have always scored, and that has been my job," Ruiz said in the locker room at PPL Park following Tuesday's practice, which took place at Chester Park in Wallingford. "I play to win and am used to being in the playoffs."
And used to producing in the postseason.
Ruiz, who was the MLS MVP during his first season in the league, in 2002 with the Los Angeles Galaxy, is second all-time in MLS playoff scoring with 16 goals. That puts him one behind Landon Donovan.
Overall, in seven MLS seasons that included two stints with the Galaxy and three seasons with FC Dallas, the 31-year-old Ruiz has 82 regular-season goals, tied for ninth all-time.
"I think he is one of those guys who finds ways to score goals and I am excited to have him with us," said Union defender Danny Califf, a former teammate with Ruiz in Los Angeles, where they played on the 2002 MLS championship team.
Last season, the Union was 11th among 16 teams with 35 goals. Ruiz should significantly upgrade the output.
Teamed with MLS all-star Sebastien Le Toux and emerging second-year forward Danny Mwanga, the Union should have one of the more prolific scoring trios in the 18-team league.
Le Toux had 14 goals and 11 assists while Mwanga totaled seven goals and four assists.
"For me it's a great opportunity to be with a guy like Carlos, who was MVP of the league, and Sebastien, who was one of the best in the league last year," Mwanga said.
Ruiz is a true target player. Mwanga and Le Toux, who exhibited great chemistry last year, can play off the ball and take advantage of open space that Ruiz should be able to create.
"With the addition of Carlos, it's going to be hard for the defense to key on one or the other," Califf said. "I think those three are going to be a handful for defenders around the league."
All of the Union players, including Ruiz, are eager to get the 34-game MLS season started.
The Union will open on Saturday in Houston against the Dynamo.
The team just began practicing this week in the Philadelphia area after spending three weeks in Florida and more than two weeks in Greece.
"After the two weeks spent in Greece we know each other better and we're playing better soccer," Ruiz said.
Ruiz said he wanted to try something new in his career - playing on the East Coast. He said that desire, plus the reputation of Union team manager Peter Nowak, was a major reason he chose to come to join the Union.
"I see what Peter has accomplished and his passion for the game and I'm looking forward to playing for him," Ruiz said. "I have also heard of the great Philadelphia fans and am excited to play in front of them."