Charlotte's MLS franchise doesn't yet have a name or a coach, but it has its first player.
Spanish midfielder Sergio Ruiz has earned that distinction, joining the club from Spanish second-division side Racing Santander. Ruiz, 25, signs with Charlotte a couple of days after fellow 2021 expansion team Austin FC announced the signing of its first player, Paraguayan forward Rodney Redes.
“We are laying down the foundations of a competitive and winning team, and Ruiz is the ideal player to start with,” club sporting director Zoran Krneta said in a statement. “We’ve been scouting him for several months. He is a natural leader and an intelligent, versatile midfielder, who will be joining Charlotte MLS in his prime. I’m very pleased that he has decided to join us.”
Ruiz had six goals and seven assists in the 2018-19 season, helping the club earn promotion out of Spain's third tier. As Austin is doing with Redes, Ruiz will go out on loan until Charlotte begins its preseason preparations for the 2021 season.
“He is someone who has adapted himself very well to different roles, whether that’s playing in a two-man or a three-man midfield,” Charlotte scouting director Thomas Schaling said. “Every team needs mature, dependable players who think about the team first. Sergio is a technical midfielder who reads the game well, both with and without the ball. We are looking forward to seeing him represent us.”
Racing Santander is on its way back down to Spain's third division, sitting last in the Segunda Division, 14 points away from safety with just three games remaining. Ruiz has made 31 goalless appearances this season.
“I am so happy and am really looking forward to arriving in Charlotte,” Ruiz said. “It’s an exciting project and a dream for me. I am committed to do my best and make the club and its fans feel really proud.”
As for Charlotte's branding, the club announced Thursday that it will reveal its name and colors on July 22.