This has been a good week for Union forward Carlos Ruiz. After scoring what could arguably be the most spectacular goal in the two-year history of the franchise, Ruiz on Monday was called up to join Guatemala's national team for the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament, which runs June 5-25.
Prior to playing in a friendly in March against Bolivia, Ruiz had been retired from international competition since 2009.
The 31-year-old known as El Pescadito has scored 42 goals for Guatemala.
He entered the season with 82 goals, which was tied for ninth in Major League Soccer history and is second with 16 postseason goals.
Ruiz now has 85 career goals and a team-high three for the Union after breaking a 1-1 tie with a onetime, left-footed volley from 35 yards out in Saturday's 2-1 win over the visiting Chicago Fire. Even SportsCenter was showing the highlights of that one.
Yet despite all the accomplishments, Ruiz has been slightly under fire for a Union offense that has been underwhelming to this point. Saturday was the first time the Union (5-3-2) had scored more than one goal in a game.
And Ruiz had generated some criticism that despite being a target player, he was great with the ball at his feet but wasn't so effective at going after it. He has been described as a stationary target.
Did he actually slow the offense down?
Ruiz mentioned after the game and reiterated the point on Wednesday that he doesn't read the criticism, but said he used to earlier in his career. Whether he reads it or not now, a player as savvy as Ruiz has to know that it exists.
"When the team plays that good on the defensive line and we don't play that good on the offensive line, obviously something is wrong," Ruiz said.
Ruiz is the second highest-paid player on the team with a guaranteed income of $306,670.67, according to MLS players union figures. Maybe it's the salary and his past accomplishments that have generated such high expectations.
But make no mistake, if Ruiz professes to not listen to any criticism, his coaching staff has heard the outcry.
"There have been many critics and many who embrace Carlos," Union team manager Peter Nowak said. "I think that some people may not recognize the difference in Carlos, the maturity in the game he plays, the goals he can score."
Nowak said he couldn't be happier with Ruiz.
Ruiz, on the other hand, said the offensive inconsistency was such a concern that the team met about it a few times prior to the Chicago game.
"I think everybody understands that when the team plays that good and is dangerous in every part, we can be a much better team," Ruiz said.
Not to spoil things, but one can't say for sure the offensive woes are cured. Despite their 5-3-2 record, the Union still have scored just eight goals. And the two goals came against a Chicago team that has surrendered 17 this season, tied for the second worst total in the league. D.C. United and Sporting Kansas City have allowed 18 goals. Chicago and Saturday's opponent, Toronto, have given up 17.
So now the Union, who have surrendered just seven goals, play another team that is having trouble keeping the opponent from hitting the back of the net.
The Union will see what it can do with Ruiz one more time in the lineup before his departure to join Guatemala.
So this week will be interesting on two fronts. First, can the Union put together consecutive multiple-goal games? Second, can Ruiz leave a lasting impression before his hiatus?
Either way, the expectations will remain high for Ruiz, who will need more than a highlight goal and a national team call-up to quiet the critics that he professes not to hear.
Watch Carlos Ruiz's spectacular game-winning goal at http://bit.ly/lID00s