If you're a fan of the USMNT, there's a good chance you're very familiar with this week's subject of The Gold Rush. Bryan Ruiz is a member of the Costa Rica national team and plays his club soccer for Sporting Lisbon in Portugal. A creative midfielder with superb technical quality has won over many fans in North American with his play in CONCACAF for the Ticos.
While not a household name, the Latino community would definitely take notice of someone like Ruiz joining Atlanta United. He is a respected player throughout the region and one that most people know of. The past few years haven't been the best of times for the midfielder. Stuck on the relegated sinking ship that is Fulham, Ruiz spent a successful season on loan with PSV in 2014 before signing with Sporting Lisbon in 2015. Here's a nice highlight video for anyone not familiar with his exploits:
When the opportunity presents itself to capture an attacking player that's in his prime with successful European pedigree you must jump on it. Ruiz will be 31 years old when Atlanta United begin play. While that's not extremely young, he'd still have plenty of good years ahead of him.
Having played against CONCACAF competition his whole professional career on international duty, adjusting to life in MLS shouldn't be too hard for him. An attacking midfielder with vision and creativity is a must for teams in this day and age. Sides that lack one often struggle with stagnated attacks and bland styles of play. Ruiz would bring that creativity to allow him to unlock the opposing defenses for his teammates, something that is crucial in MLS.
Ruiz is a fantastic player and one that goes under-appreciated by a lot of people, which is a good thing for any MLS team trying to acquire him. The biggest obstacle in doing so is the three-year contract he signed with Sporting Lisbon. A transfer fee would be required to sign him.
One nitpicking criticism of him is his physique. While his small stature makes him nimble and elusive, it could also hurt him in MLS where physical play is a common occurrence. Referees in MLS have no interest in protecting the skillful players from the brutes and it results in needless injuries all the time. Ruiz's creativity would be a huge asset, but I fear for his longevity if he were to sign in MLS.
This would just about be the perfect Designated Player signing for Atlanta United. An attacking midfielder in his prime with buckets of talent. He'd instantly give the team a midfield maestro to build around. If a team is willing to pay a transfer fee to Sporting Lisbon for him, this seems like a perfectly feasible signing. I don't see many downsides to this fantasy scenario. Get it done, Darren!