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Galaxy Signs Young Striker

Soccer: Ruiz, a feisty 22-year-old Guatemalan, is seen as a replacement for veteran Hernandez.

February 06, 2002|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Carlos Ruiz, a 22-year-old forward on Guatemala's national team, was acquired by the Galaxy as a "discovery player" on Tuesday and is expected to join the team in time for its tour of Chile later this month.

Ruiz, who had been playing for CSD Municipal in the Guatemalan league, signed a multiyear contract with Major League Soccer, terms of which were not revealed.

"We're getting a forward who has international experience," Galaxy Coach Sigi Schmid said in explaining why he had sought Ruiz. "We're getting a forward who is young, who is still hungry, who still wants to achieve more things in soccer. He's not at the apex of his career."

Ruiz is seen as a replacement for Mexican veteran Luis Hernandez, who chose not to return to Los Angeles after two seasons with the Galaxy. Schmid said he believes the Guatemalan striker will fit in well with the team's attack this season.

"He likes to play in the penalty box," he said. "He's scrappy, he's a feisty type of forward. We have some other players in [Brian] Mullen and [Chris] Albright and [Sasha] Victorine and Cobi [Jones] who are good at moving off the ball and creating openings. He [Ruiz] is a good fit for the type of forwards we already have."

Unlike Hernandez, who split time between the Galaxy and his Mexican club team, Ruiz will be with the Galaxy for the entire MLS season, which opens March 23.

"We're hoping, at the very latest, to have him in Chile when we go on our 12-day tour [starting Feb. 16]," Schmid said. In Chile, the Galaxy is expected to play four matches in preparation for the MLS season.

Ruiz, nicknamed "Pescadito," or "Little Fish," has played 24 games for Guatemala and scored 12 goals. Guatemala failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, losing a playoff to Costa Rica, 5-2, in Miami in January 2001 in a game in which Ruiz scored twice.

Ruiz, who joined CSD Municipal as a youth player at 12 and turned professional at 16, was still in Guatemala and unavailable for comment Tuesday.

To acquire Ruiz, the Galaxy will have to release a player in order to remain under the MLS salary cap.

"We still have a little bit of time, but we're obviously going to have to do something," Schmid said.

*

Jones was one of six MLS players who Tuesday were named to the 18-man national team roster for the United States' game against three-time world champion Italy at Catania, Sicily, on Feb. 13.

In addition to Jones, Coach Bruce Arena selected Jeff Agoos, Chris Armas, Landon Donovan, Pablo Mastroeni and Josh Wolff from MLS.

The balance of the 18-man squad is made up of European-based players Gregg Berhalter, Brad Friedel, Frankie Hejduk, Kasey Keller, Jovan Kirovski, Eddie Lewis, Joe-Max Moore, John O'Brien, David Regis, Claudio Reyna, Tony Sanneh and Earnie Stewart.

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