MIAMI (AP) – Carlos Ruiz had played a big role in helping the Philadelphia Union contend for first place in the Eastern Conference. The club now has to continue pushing for the franchise's first playoff berth without its leading scorer.
The Union look to regroup following Ruiz's sudden and bizarre departure as they visit the lowly Chicago Fire on Wednesday night.
Ruiz didn't dress for Friday night's 2-1 loss to Colorado, and after the match, Philadelphia coach Peter Nowak announced that "Carlos is no longer with us.''
Nowak didn't expound on his statement, and it is still unclear why the forward left and where he has gone. There are rumors that Ruiz, a two-time Golden Boot winner, the MLS MVP for Los Angeles in 2002 and eighth all-time with 88 goals, was leaving to join a Mexican team.
"Anytime there's a change like this, it's hard, but it is part of this business," Danny Califf told the Union's official website. "It's never easy."
Ruiz signed in February for Philadelphia (8-5-7), which is second in the East with 31 points, three behind conference-leading Columbus. He appeared in 14 league matches and led the Union with six goals and 14 shots on goal.
One of Ruiz's biggest goals came in Philadelphia's 2-1 win over the Fire on May 21, when he scored the game-winner from 35 yards in the 75th minute.
"It's tough to lose a player like that and see him leave," forward Danny Mwanga said. "We have to move forward and it's up to us to stick together and try to keep moving ahead following this loss."
Mwanga and possibly even Roger Torres will now be counted on to provide more offense.
Mwanga's five goals trails only Ruiz's total, and Torres, a 20-year-old midfielder, is tied for third on the team with two goals in just 367 minutes. Torres scored the Union's lone goal against the Rapids during second-half stoppage time.
"I'm happy about scoring, but we didn't get three points," Torres said. "Hopefully I'll continue to work hard and we'll get the three points that we need in the next game."
The announcement of Ruiz's departure following Friday's match somewhat overshadowed Philadelphia's first home loss. It also snapped the Union's five-game unbeaten streak (2-0-3).
Even without Ruiz, the Union seem to have a decent chance of bouncing back against a Fire team that has let opponents walk away with points in all but two matches.
Chicago (2-6-12) hasn't played an MLS match since a 1-0 home loss to Portland on July 16. The Fire, who suffered a 3-1 loss to Manchester United at Soldier Field on July 23, are 0-2-4 since June 18 and 0-2-6 in their last eight matches at Toyota Park.
Chicago is expected to have Pavel Pardo in the lineup after the Mexican international signed with the club last Tuesday. The 35-year-old midfielder has the second-most caps in Mexican national team history with 148.