Peter Nowak sent a clear message: don't jump to conclusions.
Speaking with the media during a conference call Wednesday, the Union manager answered a variety of questions, stressing that personnel moves and team cohesion are ongoing works in progress.
Also among the topics discussed: the acquisition of veteran forward Carlos Ruiz, who Nowak praised for assimilating so quickly.
With the departure of Alejandro Moreno, some see Ruiz as a direct replacement for the former Union forward. The pair have drawn comparisons for their ability to draw fouls and hold the ball in the attacking third – tactics that lead to dangerous free kicks and create space for teammates to make off-the-ball runs.
But Nowak brushed aside the notion that Ruiz would function in the same capacity as Moreno.
"People forget too fast that Carlos Ruiz was, I believe twice, a Golden Boot winner," said Nowak. "People forget that he was a league MVP. (People are) drawing a conclusion without seeing him in the last year. I've seen his European league games and I've had my contacts checking how he looks physically."
Be it criticism or praise, Nowak says it's wrong to typecast Ruiz before the regular season begins.
"Drawing these kinds of conclusions, even before First Kick, is not only unfair to Carlos, it's unfair to Alejandro Moreno as well," said Nowak, referring to the perception of Moreno as a forward who didn't look to score on his own. "I think Ali did a great job with the team. He worked hard, gave everything he had for the team. He left the team with great feelings."
Moreno often functioned as a target man in 2010, allowing Sebastien Le Toux room to run from his winger role. In fact, the majority of Le Toux's 14 goals came from an attacking midfield position. With Ruiz now in the lineup, many strategists believe Le Toux will re-assume that wide role.
The chemistry between Ruiz, Le Toux and second-year striker Danny Mwanga remains a question mark, but it's hard to argue against adding a proven scorer like Ruiz, especially on a free transfer.
There's no doubt he can find the net. The Guatemalan scored 82 goals in 155 regular season appearances, primarily with the LA Galaxy and FC Dallas. His 16 postseason goals are the most in MLS history. And though "El Pescadito" is now 31 years old, Nowak says he's ready to make his mark at PPL Park.
"I think that right now, Carlos is in a great mental state," said Nowak. "He's been working very well with the team. He brings some things that the team needs in terms of ambition, in terms of training, and work ethic. You can see the player has matured. I know him from having played against Carlos in the league."