October 15, 2012
Ruiz certainly has it from USA GK Howard
By Michael Lewis
KANSAS CITY, Kansas -- Since 1998, when he first donned the Guatemalan uniform, striker Carlos Ruiz has tormented opposing defenders and goalkeepers.
The United States certainly has been no exception. He headed in a goal in the waning minutes of a World Cup Qualifying match to give the Guatemalans a 1-1 tie on July 28, 2000.
Despite his "old age" of 33 for an international striker, Ruiz is out to make life miserable for the U.S. when the two countries tussle at Sporting Livestrong Park in the final World Cup semifinal round qualifier on Tuesday night (ESPN2, 7 p.m.).
Ruiz certainly has earned the respect of U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, who played against the Guatemalan standout in Major League Soccer and in World Cup qualifying. Howard played with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars.
"I just admire his tenacity," Howard said on Sunday. "Listen, I've been a fan of his for a long time and I played in MLS for 5 1/2 years. I've seen a lot of foreigners come and go and pack their bathing suits and take a vacation. Carlos was one of those guys who came in who really embraced the league and he scraped and fought and he was a big part of some teams in MLS."
Ruiz scored a header in the 75th minute to lift Guatemala to a vital 2-1 home qualifying win over Jamaica on Friday night as the Guatemalans tied the U.S. for the CONCACAF Group A lead with 3-0-1 records and 10 points apiece.
"He's a tough bugger," Howard said. "He really gets stuck in. He is one of those great forwards who are hungry, who are greedy who are always out on sniffing the goal. He's tough. He's a handful. Even though he's not a handful in terms of size, he's a handful. He's a tough bugger to play against."
The last time the two teams met in June -- a 1-1 draw in Guatemala City -- Ruiz did all he could to irritate Howard and the U.S. with his antics. There is no doubt why he is nicknamed Pescado -- The Fish -- Ruiz has proven to be one slippery fish.
Ruiz has found the back of the net 54 times in 103 international matches.
"He's a good competitor," Howard said. "I enjoyed playing against him. I got a lot of time with him off the field and we always speak off the field before the game. On the field, he's one of the tough ones. I enjoy playing against him and I think he enjoys playing against us. We're in for a fight. So is he."
The 5-10 Ruiz has been known to dive, trying to pick up free and penalty kicks.
"Of course, of course. That's part of the game," Howard said. "He does it well. The best forwards in the world do it well. They bring attention to their individual battle and make the referee take notice."
The Guatemalan also has been known for his theatrics.
"Of course, of course," Howard said. "That's part of the game. He does it well. The best forwards in the world do it well. They bring attention to their individual battle and make the referee take notice."
While the U.S. sports a 10-0-1 home record against Guatemala, including 5-0-0 in qualifiers, Howard expects a difficult time.
"They're a resilient bunch," he said. "They always have [been]. As much as they're talented, they can possess the ball. They're scrapers. And that's not always easy to play against. I think we learned a little bit of a lesson that they'll keep pushing, even though they were down a goal. It was early on in the phase. They kept pushing and they got the goal. It's all about guarding against those things, trying to get a lot of possession, if we can, at home, but also make our pressure counts and pays off with goals."