[MLS WATCH]They've squared off against each other for club and country, and circumstances swept one out of town to make room for the other. Now Landon Donovanand Carlos Ruiz, catalysts and protagonists in many a soccer drama, are teammates.
Rebuffed in its efforts to send keeper Joe Cannon to D.C. as part of a three-team deal that would have landed Ruiz from Dallas, after shipping Cannon to San Jose for allocation money, Los Angeles sent a 2009 second-round SuperDraft pick and bunch of allocation money to nab Guatemala's joint leading scorer (35 international goals, tied with Juan Carlos Plata) directly.
"He's a typical goalscorer that we need," said Coach Ruud Gullit in a team release announcing the trade. "He's good in the air and he also goes past players. With the right players around him, especially with [Landon] Donovan and David Beckham giving him crosses, I think he is the exact player we need up front to win games."
Three years after the league mandated Ruiz be sent to Dallas to make room for Donovan, whose second stint at Bayer Leverkusen lasted only a few months, the Galaxy can field both of them.
Ruiz scored 50 goals in 72 matches for the Galaxy from 2002 to 2004; in three seasons with Dallas, his totals were 31 goals, 68 games. He is the league's all-time leading playoff goalscorer with 16.
The allocation money from Cannon's departure is desperately needed, since the combined salaries of Ruiz, Donovan and Beckham are estimated to consume nearly one-half of the team's salary-cap budget, which is said by sources to be just under $2.2 million.
Under league rules, a team can use allocation money to re-sign current players and acquire new ones. Unclear is how much money it can use to clear space under the cap to soften the hit of Ruiz's salary.
Like Donovan, Ruiz is grandfathered for another year as exempt from Designated Player limits that permit no more than two per team and mandate cap hits of $400,000 and $325,000 for those players.
"It's no secret we wanted him back here and he desperately wanted to come back," said president and general manager Alexi Lalas, who attended the MLS Combine with Gullit and director of soccer Paul Bravo. "As far as the salary cap goes, well, there are a lot of creative things you can do to get around that. Without breaking the rules, you understand."
Perhaps no team other than the MetroStars/Red Bulls has been suspected of breaking the rules more often or more blatantly than Los Angeles, but still it missed the playoffs two straight seasons.
In adding Ruiz it formulates what could be the most potent attacking triumvirate in the league, and gives the critics and opposing fans yet another reason - and player - by which to deride the Galaxy.