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Real Salt Lake Bright Spot Pablo Ruiz’s Long Road To MLS Success & Future Aspirations

Pablo Ruiz hits a volley during pre-season training in Phoenix Arizona. Photo courtesy: Real Salt Lake

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Pablo Ruiz is finding his footing under manager Freddy Juarez in 2020.

The young Argentine-Chilean is excelling as the prime distributor for Real Salt Lake in the heart of the midfield.

Comodoro Rivadavia Is Home

Ruiz, 21, hails from Comodoro Rivadavia in Argentina, a coastal city nestled on the San Jorge Gulf best known for its oil production.

His father works for the Argentine government after he decided to not pursue a professional soccer career, despite having interest from multiple South American clubs, to ensure a more stable upbringing for Ruiz and his siblings.

His brother is a truck driver and his sister helps his mother around the house. His entire family lives in Argentina and is yet to visit him in Utah but follow his every move by watching Real Salt Lake games on an app.

“When I was younger, my parents had the biggest impact on me. There was a time when I was a teenager playing for the national team and I just didn’t feel happy with what I was doing. I was on the verge of quitting and I was ready to give up but my parents pushed me through and helped me and I am where I am now because of them,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz’s introduction to the world game came when he was just four-years-old after his father signed him up for the neighborhood club team. Strangely, Ruiz began his career as a goalkeeper.

Furthermore, Ruiz played the goalkeeping position for four years up until he was eight. His father then asked him if he wanted to play a different position, to which he answered, “Yes.”

Ruiz was smaller than most of the children he was competing with and found it difficult to compete with the bigger bodies, it took him a while before he started to figure out how he could utilize his small frame. With on-field success came the love and passion for the game of soccer. He has never looked back.

Adiós Papá Y Mamá

When Ruiz was 14 years of age his life changed after Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro came calling. He made the move up to the nation’s capital, Buenos Aires, leaving his family behind in Comodoro Rivadavia and traveling 1,000 miles north to further pursue his dream of playing professionally.

He spent two years with San Lorenzo before yet another substantial move would take place. Club Deportivo San Luis de Quillota, a Chilean top-flight club, signed Ruiz when he was just 16-years-old.

However, San Luis was limited on how many international players they could sign so Ruiz decided to utilize his grandparent’s ethnicity and gain his Chilean citizenship. The decision now grants both Chile and Argentina the ability to call Ruiz into their national team squads if they deem Ruiz good enough.

“There are rumors that I am going to be called into the Chilean national team and I welcome that but I also feel very Argentine because that is where I was born and raised,” Ruiz said. “I do not have a preference as to what national team I play for, whoever it is, I will play for them with the same passion that I am currently playing with now.”

A Rocky Start In The Rocky Mountains

Nonetheless, Ruiz’s career in Chile lasted two seasons before Real Salt Lake’s Head Scout at the time Andy Williams and former Technical Director Dane Murphy feasted their eyes on the young left-footed prodigy.

“We knew we were getting a very technical player but when we got him in we quickly found out that it is a different style of soccer here in MLS and it is very different than the leagues in which he was coming from,” manager Freddy Juarez explained.

Major League Soccer is known for its physicality and demands players to excel in transition. You must defend, regardless of your position, if you hope to succeed in North America’s top-flight competition.

The move to Major League Soccer was an opportunity that Ruiz knew he had to take, regardless of the challenges. He did not speak any English and was unaware of the rigors of the league.

Mentor Marcelo

Fortunately, Ruiz was not the only member of the Real Salt Lake organization who found themselves in a challenging position. Just a year earlier, the club signed Uruguayan center back Marcelo Silva from Zaragoza in Spain’s second division and much like Ruiz had never played in a country where English was the dominant language spoken.

Silva immediately took Ruiz under his wing, mentoring the youngster with the hope of molding him into the next South American football wizard.

During the 2018 MLS season, Ruiz found it difficult to break into the starting eleven due to the number of midfield players that were ahead of him; Kyle Beckerman, Luke Mulholland, Stephen Sunday and Damir Kreilach were all experienced and proven commodities that the coaching staff could rely on. Ruiz was not yet ready.

So, they threw him into the deep end and asked him to swim.

On June 9, 2018, in the 78th minute down 3-0 to the LA Galaxy on the road, Ruiz made his MLS debut replacing Danny Acosta at left-back. He excelled. In 2018, Ruiz played the majority of his minutes out of position at left-back. The more minutes Ruiz received at left-back, the more it became clear that his future was in the midfield.

Following the conclusion of the 2018 season, after he bounced back and forth from Real Salt Lake and the second division team Real Monarchs, Ruiz knew that something must change if he wanted to make the most out of his career.

The Austrian Experiment

On July 12, 2019, it was announced that Ruiz had been placed on a six-month loan to Austrian third division club FC Pinzgau Saafelden. He went alone, telling his wife that he needed the time to himself as he attempted to transform his future. She left Salt Lake City and returned to Argentina to be with her family.

Silva had been placed on loan before, back in 2012 when he departed Almeria and joined Penarol for a year spell. Silva has experience making the most out of an opportunity to go on loan.

“Before he left I had a lot of discussions with him,” Silva said. “At the end of the day it was his decision to go or not but I told him any step you take is a step forward and is never a step back. If you’re going to go then you will go to develop as a person, get minutes and grow. You are going to meet new people, have new challenges but this is a positive step in the right direction.”

During the six-month stint in Austria, Ruiz reignited the love and passion for the game he once felt while playing in the streets of Argentina as a boy … but it was far from easy.

Every day he arrived at the club with his boots in hand, a change of clothes and all of his belongings that he needed for the day. If he did not look after himself, nobody else would.

His family in Argentina were dying to visit him, but Ruiz would neglect their requests. If he ever had time off and had a chance to return home, he decided against it. He did not have the time to waste getting on an airplane and flying halfway across the world.

He hired a personal nutritionist who traveled with him to help him with his diet.

Ruiz was on a mission.

In 15 appearances for FC Pinzgau, Ruiz scored 9 goals and quickly became the most feared player within the league. He played as a number 10, roaming just above the 18-yard box.

While he was in Austria, he made a few trips to Italy to watch some Serie A and became immersed in the Italian style of soccer. Soccer in Italy has recently been transformed into an attacking juggernaut in part due to Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival at Juventus. But has historically been known for its bruising, innovative and relentless defensive perfection.

“I think there will be some leagues that he fits well into,” Juarez said. “With continued growth and continued investment in his game, meaning, becoming a student of the game, putting a gym in his house, all of that. I do believe that he could do well in a Dutch league, an Italian league.” Juarez added.

A Changed Pablo Emerges

Ruiz returned back to Salt Lake City as the 2019 Major League Soccer season was coming to an end and manager Freddy Juarez immediately noticed a difference.

Prior to Ruiz leaving for Austria, he was unable to complete the generic fitness test the club operates to get a gauge on where the players’ fitness lies. When he returned, he was able to complete the test with ease.

His demeanor changed. He was focused, determined and eager to force the coaches to play him.

View this post on Instagram

Getting ready for sunday✨✨

A post shared by Pablo Ruiz (@pablo.ruiz6) on

The 2020 MLS season has been challenging for more than one reason with the club having to battle its way through multiple scandals and distractions.

However, the play from Ruiz upon his return from Austria has been a bright spot for the club as he has quickly become a key member of the club’s success on the pitch.

Ruiz still has a lot to prove and the journey is far from over. The motivation to continue to improve, develop and become a more intelligent soccer player will forever drive Ruiz to reach for the stars.

Enjoy the days of Pablo Ruiz in a Real Salt Lake kit because the days are numbered, his future lies in Europe.

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