FULL DISCLOSURE: I like Carlos Ruiz.
Both of them actually, but in this case, I'm referring to the soccer variety who plays forward for the Union.
Fans already want his head for not bringing enough to the table - especially given his six-figure price tag - so far this season. The notion was further supplanted with the inclusion of Danny Mwanga as a halftime substitute Wednesday night. In just 39 minutes, Mwanga proved the missing matchstick for an offensive spark that was lacking between Ruiz and Sebastien Le Toux.
It's true Ruiz was once a star in Major League Soccer; his 16 postseason goals over a 6-year span still top the league. But this season, Ruiz has just two goals in eight games. At that pace, he is slated to finish with an average of nine goals this season. Respectable, but can that really be considered production?
But once one delved a little deeper therein lies a bigger concern: El Pescadito has been on a steady decline every year since entering MLS. His numbers have decreased exponentially every year since his 24 goal season that put him on MLS' map as a juggernaut for the Galaxy in 2002. That year Ruiz captured MLS' Golden Boot and most valuable player honors. But ever since then while the numbers have been respectable, they haven't been worthy of the praise that Union technical staffers gave when announcing his return to MLS in Philadelphia.
But they knew this. We see the same statistics they do. He took 3 years off from the league and had stints with paltry numbers in Paraguay, Mexico and Greece. While they hoped he would be an upgrade to Alejandro Moreno, Ruiz was brought here as a mentor to young, up and coming forwards like Mwanga, Jack McInerney, Levi Houapeu and 16-year-old super teen Zach Pfeffer.
So moving forward as a club, what happens now? Obviously though still young, Mwanga has proved that he can be the lightning bolt. He already has showed he has chemistry with Le Toux; everyone witnessed it last season when the duo combined for 21 goals and 18 assists.
"Oh man, he's huge," said defender Jordan Harvey of Mwanga. "He's made huge strides and huge progress in the last year and when he's on the field he holds the ball up really well and has great feet and he capitalizes on good opportunities."
OK, so if Mwanga should start where does that leave Ruiz? You don't suggest the Union make their six-figure ($306,671 in guaranteed compensation) goals leader (albeit two goals in eight league matches, three in all competitions) a substitute for a 19-year-old prospect groomed to be the face of the franchise?
Again, I like Carlos Ruiz, and I hate to agree with the consensus, but he hasn't been the spark this franchise thought he'd be by now. So I pose this question to the technical staff: How long do you give Ruiz the chance to live up to his reputation, at the detriment of having someone (Mwanga) who continues to show game-changing qualities sit and watch?
MONDRAGON TO SUIT UP
Union assistant John Hackworth told the Daily News via text that goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon is listed as probable for tomorrow's game against Dallas. Mondragon suffered a groin strain Wednesday night against the Galaxy and was in the Union training room for nearly an hour postgame getting worked on by trainers. Yesterday, he underwent further testing and treatment at Crozer-Chester Hospital and has "responded well," said Hackworth.
WAITING HARDEST PART
There are only so many times you can hear "you'll get your chance" or "you are the future of the franchise," before it gets old. It's getting old for Mondragon's 19-year-old backup Zac MacMath, eager to get on the pitch and prove everyone right. The Daily News caught up with the Union's first-round pick in February's SuperDraft, who, for a moment, given Mondragon's second-half injury against the Galaxy, looked as if he might be making his MLS debut.
Daily News: How much were you hoping for the chance to get in?
MacMath: You always want to be in the game, and I was ready, but you hate for it to be because of a situation like that. You never want to have to replace a teammate because of injury and [Mondragon] is our biggest presence on the field. It's tough to have to wait my turn, but I am learning a lot from the coaching staff and being around such a great keeper like Faryd.
DN: How sick are you of the future of the franchise talk?
ZM: At first it was exciting, but now I am just dying to prove it out there. But I train hard everyday in practice, give it my all because you never know when that day might happen.
ODDS AND ENDLINES
Yesterday, MLS announced the implementation of the Castrol Performance Index. Sponsored by Castrol and managed by the stat gurus at OPTA, CPI will track every player in MLS regardless of playing time on the pitch, assess how each move impacted their side's ability to score a goal or concede one, and will rank each player accordingly. Based on initial testing released today, Union defender Danny Califf is the sixth best player in the league. Carlos Valdes Harvey is the next best Unionite at No. 33 . . . FC Dallas backup goalkeeper and former Union starter Chris Seitz via Twitter Wednesday night: "back to training tomorrow to get ready to take it to @JordanCHarvey @amobisays and @sheanonwilliams over the weekend HOLLLA."
Didn't have the heart to tell him . . .
SHOTS ON GOAL
Union (4-2-2, 14 points) at FC Dallas (4-3-2, 14 points)
When: Tomorrow, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Pizza Hut Park, Frisco, Texas
TV: Comcast SportsNet
On the web: Streaming video at MLSSoccer.com
For kicks: With literally a day to regenerate, the Union will board a flight this afternoon to take on a pesky FC Dallas squad. Dallas is coming off a 2-1 win over Los Angeles and a midweek 1-0 victory over Toronto FC. In between was a 0-0 tie with D.C. United . . . Dallas is without MLS MVP forward David Ferreira (broken ankle), but players like forward Marvin Chavez, captain Daniel Hernandez and midfielder Brek Shea (who FC Dallas resigned yesterday through 2015), make up an offensive attack that is among the league's top-10 in shots (116), shots on goal (40) and goals scored (11) . . . MLS goalkeeper of the week Kevin Hartman (1.11 goals against average) will start. Hartman, a beast in net, was named to MLS' team of the week for Week 8.
Out for the Union: Thorne Holder, GK (concussion). Doubtful: Stefani Miglioranzi, MF (right groin strain). Probable: Gabe Farfan, MF (left hamstring strain); Faryd Mondragon, GK (groin strain).
Out for FC Dallas: Edson Edward, MF (right knee ACL tear); David Ferreira, FW (right ankle); Jair Benitez, DF (left knee); Maykel Galindo, FW (left plantar fascia strain); Milton Rodriguez, FW (IT band syndrome). Probable: Bruno Guarda, MF (right hip flexor strain)
"You all noticed how it was since you saw the game. I did my best, it was tough at the beginning, but what can I say? We are all a bit older now and I am not as accurate as I used to be in the past." - A laughing Peter Nowak talking to the Polish media about his performance in the "Match of the Stars" Wednesday night in Warsaw.
Nowak missed Wednesday's Union game against the Galaxy to make the appearance in Poland. Nowak's Stars of Europe team lost to the Former Polish National Team players, 3-1.