By Ryan Bailey

Charlotte FC’s first-ever signing is enjoying an exceptional season on loan with Las Palmas in the Spanish Segunda Division

CHARLOTTE—Frankly, Sergio Ruiz’s preparation for Charlotte FC’s inaugural season couldn’t be going much better.

In September 2020, the club’s first-ever signing was sent on loan to Las Palmas in Spain’s second tier. While loan signings may typically take time to establish themselves with a new team, the 26-year-old became a mainstay in the starting XI straight out of the gate. The Spanish midfielder has been virtually ever-present for the Canary Islands side as they push for promotion to Spain’s top division, La Liga.

In 28 league matches at the time of writing, Ruiz has scored five goals and provided five assists. His first goal of 2021 came in a match against Leganes, in which he was awarded Man of the Match—and was subsequently nominated for the league’s Player of the Month award.

“I was very proud and happy to get the Player of the Month nomination,” said Ruiz. “This year, the level of the league is very high, and there are some very good players. Me being one of them is something incredible.”

Notably, Ruiz has scored with both feet in this campaign, and stepped up with some clutch goals in recent weeks, including an equalizer in the fiercely contested derby match with Tenerife.

The midfielder’s favorite strike of the season, however, came last month against Rayo Vallecano, where he rescued a point (and earned another Man of the Match accolade) with a superb long-range effort in the 87th minute.

“I think the goal against Rayo Vallecano is my favorite of the season so far,” said Ruiz. “It earned a draw near the end of the game, and I also think it was the most beautiful and difficult shot of them all.”

Ruiz started April with a brace of assists in Las Palmas’ 6-1 demolition of Lugo, which marked the biggest home win, and highest-scoring match of the Segunda Division thus far. It also put the future MLS player in the league’s Team of the Week for the second consecutive week.

Ruiz’s well-rounded performances are evident in stats that go well beyond goals and assists: he has created 28 chances in his 28 league matches, with 87% pass accuracy and 78% shots on target. Defensively, he has managed 24 interceptions and 27 clearances.

“I’m really enjoying my time with Las Palmas, both on a personal and sporting level,” said Ruiz.

“I’m happy, I’m playing with confidence, and my level is increasing. We have a young team that plays great soccer and I identify with the club’s philosophy.

While the conditions of the pandemic have created a strange season in most leagues (“It is weird and a little sad to play without fans,” admits Ruiz), the first player to put pen to paper with Charlotte FC is revelling in his current loan spell, saying “this island is a great place to live—the weather is good and the city is beautiful.”

Clearly, Ruiz is enjoying his game right now. And clearly, Charlotte FC fans have plenty to be excited about for the 2022 season.