BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, July 19, 2011
With the Mexican Primera Division set to kick off this weekend, Adrian Ruelas is poised for a breakout season at Jaguares who he joined last month on a year-long loan from Santos Laguna.
Ruelas, 20, made his first team professional debut last season for Santos Laguna after scoring goals at a rapid pace for the club's U-20 team. He played in two games for the club coming on as a substitute each time.
Last month, Santos sent Ruelas to Jaguares for a 12 month loan because they felt it was the best place to go for him to get more playing time at a high level. When Ruelas got back from his offseason break, a loan was something he was not expecting.
"Actually no, I wasn't expecting it," Ruelas told YA from Mexico. "When we got back from vacation the team was about ready to head to preseason. They told me they were going to look for a team for me to get more playing time. That was going to be the plan. If they couldn't find a team, then I was going to stay with [Santos] and it would be no problem. They told me that it was the best option."
So far in preseason, Ruelas has been seeing consistent minutes in all of the team's games. His best game came on July 5 when he scored two goals as Jaguares played to a 3-3 draw with Club Neza.
"I haven't started any games yet in the preseason but the coach has been putting me in the last 20 minutes of all of our friendlies," Ruelas said. "This preseason has been pretty long. We didn't get back here to Chiapas until Sunday. We've been travelling around for a month and a half in places along the coast and in high altitude. It's been a really good preseason though. Everything has been going great."
Ruelas has now spent significant time with Jaguares and has seen the team come together heading into the season opener this weekend against Monterrey. In addition to having Colombian international Jackson Martinez, the club has bolstered its offense during the offseason with the addition of Ruelas and Colombian forwards Luis Gabriel Ray and Franco Arizala.
The offensive additions have heightened Ruelas' expectations of what he thinks the club can accomplish this season.
"I see that for this season the team acquired some good forwards and are focusing on offense," Ruelas discussed. "I think that's great. Now we have defense and offense. I expect a lot from the team this year. This season, I am getting my hopes up to qualify for the playoffs."
At Jaguares, Ruelas will be playing under head coach Jose Guadeloupe Cruz who has earned a reputation in Mexico for being an offensive-minded coach. Prior to taking the job at Jaguares in 2010, Cruz coached at Atlante for six years and during that time the club won a Mexican title and a CONCACAF Champions League title.
Ruelas appreciates Cruz's demanding style and is confident he will develop more as a player while there.
"He's a really tactical coach," Ruelas said of Cruz. "He likes to play and he doesn't like a lot of long balls. He's really strict in the field. He likes to be close to perfect. He expects a lot from you. When you're playing for him you want to leave everything on the field. He asks specific roles from you."
Ruelas is well aware that the most important thing for him will be to earn significant playing time because that is the purpose of the loan. The task won't be an easy one as Cruz now has many attacking players to choose from.
Ruelas, however, is confident in his ability to force Cruz's hand to earn minutes and perhaps even start games for Jaguares. A successful season will also open doors for Ruelas at the international level where he very much hopes to make his way into the US Olympic team next year.
"Obviously the plan for the loan was for me to get more playing time," Ruelas explained. "Even with that, I still have to work for it and work for a spot like I would with any other team. My expectations are to get in more games but also for people to see me. I am just hoping that during the season I make positive contributions every time I go in. I really want to do a good job so I can make it tough for him keep me away from the starting 11."
"Last season was my debut season and I got into two [first team] games - which I guess you could say is nothing," he added. "I want to adapt to the league. My goal for the long term is to do well so I can get a shot at making the US Olympic team."
A strong start to the season could also see Ruelas possibly earn a callup to the US national team as well as the Olympic team. Ruelas was born in Fontana, California and has dual citizenship with the United States and Mexico.
Earlier in his career Ruelas played for Mexican youth national teams but in 2010 he began playing for the United States U-20 national team after speaking with Thomas Rongen who was the US coach at the time. Since then he has taken great pride in playing for the United States and the chance to play for the Stars and Stripes again is something that motivates him whenever he takes the field.
"I am proud of playing for my national team and that is extra motivation," Ruelas concluded. "I just can do well and I'm looking forward to getting my first professional goal. I hope that all these little goals I have for myself will add up to me getting a shot for a call-up."
Ruelas and Jaguares will open their Mexican Primera Division season this Sunday, July 24 when they host Monterrey.