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Sergio Ruiz greeted me with his signature beaming smile that has become synonymous with the player. But it wasn’t too long ago when that smile of his became a rare sight.

The end of 2021 was a difficult time for Sergio as he battled with anxiety and depression, in the midst of recovering from an injury and preparing for the transition to Charlotte. Sergio, with the support of his friends, family, and coaches was able to overcome his struggles and begin the new chapter of his life.

For the first time in his life, Sergio would be moving to another country to continue his professional career. And he wasn’t just going to a nearby European country but rather crossing an entire ocean to get to his new home.

Despite being his first time having to adapt to living in a new country, it has been a smooth transition for Sergio, his wife, and of course can’t forget Nelo, the family dog.

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“The transition has gone really well! It’s been a fast adaptation. Big shout out to Elena for all the help. I’m very happy, I love the city. It’s big but it’s also not too big. There’s a lot to do, it’s a great place to have a pet. Going on walks with your dog through parks or the city, I like that.”

“Everything is pretty similar, the culture and all that. I’ve adapted easily. The only real thing I’ve had to get slightly get adjusted to is the scheduling here. For example, the times to eat here are earlier, when you eat dinner with your family it’s earlier. In Spain, you start eating dinner at around nine but here it’s more around seven.”

Going to a new country, new city, and new soccer team weren’t the only significant changes in this new chapter. Sergio was also on the verge of becoming a father with his wife Paula.

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Paula has been an anchor for Sergio throughout this entire process and seeing her happy in Charlotte has solidified their belief that they made the right decision.

“[She’s been] fundamental. You know she was pregnant, it was a new city, a new language. She knows a lot of English, she helped me a lot with the move here, with all the documents. It’s great to have her here because I also see that she is very happy here.

“I love to go out and about with my wife, my dog, and now with my son. Love to watch TV shows, I just finished watching Money Heist. With everything I had going I didn’t have to time finish it until now. I love movies, shows, and even documentaries.”

The newest addition to the family is Lucas, who was born nearly after Charlotte FC’s inaugural home match. As you can imagine, balancing being a new dad and a professional footballer is exhausting but for Sergio, it’s also the most fulfilling thing he’s done.

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“It’s a lot more complicated [being a professional footballer with a newborn]. Especially when it comes to sleep,” Sergio laughs. “He would always wake up throughout the night. Combine that with having to train the following day, it’s very tiring.

“I have to be mindful of that and take advantage of any opportunities I get to rest. But it’s my job as a father, it’s the less glamorous part of being a dad. But really, being a dad is a beautiful experience.”

When talking about Lucas, Sergio took pride in his son being born in the United States, playfully referring to him as his “little American.”

“Honestly, I’m really happy that he was born here.”

But having a son born in the US to Spanish parents possess an important question... if Lucas were to become a soccer player, what country would Sergio want him to represent?

“It wouldn’t only be up to me, but I would like to stay awhile here in the US, I’m very comfortable and happy here. My son was born here, so play here. It’s up to him, but he may not even want to become a footballer, but it’d be cool if he were to grow up here, play for his city, and eventually the national team.”