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The Salt: The Curious Case of Pablo Ruiz

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It seems Pablo Ruiz is leaving Real Salt Lake, just as the transfer window opens.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Philadelphia Union Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

So, it looks like Pablo Ruiz’s time at Real Salt Lake has come to at least a temporary close, with Marcelo Silva posting in an Instagram story about a “new challenge” and that “everything will be fine.”

It’s very clearly a post about Ruiz, given he’s the one front and center in the photo, but as with all social media posts, don’t take this as gospel truth.

Where’s he going? I dunno. Is he definitely going? I dunno.

But what do I know? I actually think there are some interesting things to talk about with the player, who came in with basically no expectations from Chilean side San Luis de Quillota.

Let’s chat.

His arrival

I really had no expectations about Ruiz when he came to the club. Highlights were basically nonexistent. Reports had him as a left winger or a central midfielder. He could have been a world-beater, for all I knew.

But when he came to the club, he ended up playing left back. He started four consecutive matches, all of them at left back. His first start there came in a 2-0 loss to Vancouver Whitecaps. His last start there was a 4-1 loss to Philadelphia Union on the road, and he was certainly not good positionally — but he did sort of match the level of the team, too.

We had plenty of evidence to see that he simply wasn’t a left back, but beyond that? Well, we’d yet to see him in his natural midfield position.

His mid-season disappearance

Pablo Ruiz became very much a consistent name on the bench, being named to it through the entire year without exception. If nothing else, that was a sign that he was good at staying healthy.

Over the rest of the season, Ruiz played just 113 minutes over seven matches. He’d gone from a starter to a non-essential figure in short order. During that time, he did play five matches with Real Monarchs, but he was always back on that RSL bench.

During that time, he was tried at central midfield and at left wing, and never with terribly much success. But he was young, so it was easy to understand that there was more to come from him, and perhaps that we shouldn’t judge him too harshly too early.

His post-season appearance

So after dropping off pretty significantly, Pablo Ruiz became a last-ditch substitute against Sporting Kansas City in the playoffs last year. It was a massive match, and we were down a goal. He was trusted enough to appear and push for an equalizer. It didn’t happen, but it says something interesting about how he was regarded on the team.

But then, 2019 came around.

2019

In 2019, Pablo Ruiz hasn’t played for Real Salt Lake. He’s made a handful of appearances for Real Monarchs. He’s just been on RSL’s bench three times.

It’s a rather quick and spectacular fall from grace, and frankly, I don’t really get it. He earned appearances in 2019 from the bench, and he wasn’t exactly great — but he still made a vital appearance in the playoffs. Now? He’s not even making the bench. He’s not always starting for Real Monarchs.

This is a player who has apparently lost his standing in the team, and now, it appears he’s leaving.

Should we be sad? Probably not, given he hasn’t been making appearances. He takes up an international spot, and that’s a hugely valuable thing to be giving up at this time. After all, the transfer window is officially open, and RSL is free to strengthen. Realistically, we need to if we’re to find real success in 2019, because nobody in MLS is sitting still.