TFC's new strike force

DEAN MCNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

Coach John Carver was smiling ear to ear after finally getting striker Carlos Ruiz on the pitch with his new Toronto FC teammates.

Even though the trade that brought Ruiz here from Los Angeles -- where he started the season with David Beckham's Galaxy -- was completed a week ago, the trip to Toronto was fraught with obstacles that delayed his meeting up with the squad at Blue Mountain Resort in Collingwood until yesterday.

First there was the problem of even getting in touch with the 28-year-old native of Guatemala, who was in Central America for a World Cup qualifying match against the U.S. the day the deal was done.

Once Ruiz was notified of the trade a day later, he asked TFC soccer boss Mo Johnston for an extension on his reporting date, which was to have been last Thursday, so he could wrap up some last-minute moving details.

"When he didn't turn up at the weekend, everybody was saying it was because he doesn't want to play on the turf, but that wasn't the case," Carver said.

There was even one erroneous report that claimed Ruiz wanted no part of the trade.

The fact is that Ruiz apparently couldn't get out of the L.A. circus fast enough after having a war of words with since-fired coach Ruud Gullit.

"What I'm not going to do is start a war with him," Carver said on the TFC website. "You can't do that with certain players. Some players need a cuddle to get the best out of them and you have to get in the faces of others. This is a guy who you have to show respect to."

Another reason Ruiz is happy to be in Toronto is because he will be thrust immediately into the role of star striker.

Coming into the 2008 season he had 81 MLS goals in just 150 games, making him one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league. But this season, Ruiz only has started five games and appeared in five others as a substitute, scoring just once.

With the trade that sent Jeff Cunningham packing to Dallas and the concussion suffered by Danny Dichio, Carver was down to one striker -- Abdus Ibrahim, 16 -- who the coach is not anxious to overwork at such a tender age.

So the arrival of Ruiz is something of a godsend for Carver and TFC.

PASSIONATE

"They tell me he is one of the best finishers in the league, so that excites me," Carver said. "I've heard he is a good guy in the locker room and that he's a good character."

Both of those things may be true but the mercurial Ruiz -- nicknamed El Pescadito (Little Fish) -- also has a reputation as a dirty player, which he defends as just being aggressive and passionate about his game.

He told The New York Times recently that his passion comes from his roots in Guatemala, where he is a national hero for his play in international matches.

Ruiz, in fact, holds the record for most Guatemala caps (72) and is tied for the most goals (35) with Juan Carlos Plata.

"You have to show why you are an international," Ruiz told the paper. "You have to prove every game why you are here."


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