KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The moment, the disappointment, the feeling of closure was just too much.
Surrounded by jubilant fans clad in red, white and blue while American players celebrated on the field in front of him, Guatemala’s World Cup dream dashed cruelly by goal differential, Carlos Ruiz pulled his jersey over his face and let the tears run down his face.
He cried for his countrymen, who filled large pockets of Livestrong Sporting Park with light blue and white. He cried for his team, who jumped out to a 1-0 lead, thanks to his breakaway goal, that they couldn’t hold onto. And he cried for himself, a sterling international career over without ever experiencing the game’s crowning moment.
WATCH: Ruiz stuns US backline early
“This was my last game [with Guatemala],” Ruiz told reporters after Guatemala’s 3-1 loss to US on Tuesday night. “I cried what I need to cry in the locker room, it happened what it meant to happen. I thanked to all my teammates and I would like to thank to all the fans in Guatemala for the incredible support, to my family, to my daughters.
“But this is something that was known, that this was going to be my last tournament with the national team. It is time for the younger ones to take on.”
No matter who steps in for the man now known as "Pescadito," they’ll have plenty of slack to pick up.
Fittingly, Ruiz ended his career with his 55th goal in 104 matches for Los Chapines, a poacher’s run and finish that must have seemed like second nature.
It was a characteristic calling card of a goal from the former MLS star, who spent the better part of nine seasons in the league, mostly with the LA Galaxy and FC Dallas. His 88 goals scored over that time still ranks him tied for ninth place on the all-time scoring list, even with Roy Lassiter.
Most fans will remember Ruiz for his nose for goal, his MLS MVP award in 2002 while helping the Galaxy to their first MLS Cup and winning the Golden Boot along the way. Many more will remember him for his antics.
And although fans of opposing teams won’t be sorry to see one of CONCACAF’s most skilled practitioners of gamesmanship head off into the sunset, they can certainly appreciate the influence he wielded in his Central American homeland.
After more than a decade pulling on the light-blue and white of Guatemala, eventually finishing as his nation’s leading scorer, Ruiz’s career is in limbo.
At the moment, the 33-year-old doesn’t have a club. Never again will he play at Estadio Mateo Flores in his nation's colors surrounded by his countrymen in his hometown of Guatemala City.
But he’s not finished, far from it in fact. He may have never pulled on his nation’s colors on the sport’s biggest stage, but Pescado is dedicated to helping someone else accomplish the dream that never quite materialized for his generation.
“It hurts me the fact I was unable to go to a World Cup as a player, but I will try in a way or another to continue being involved with the national team,” Ruiz said. “Not as a coach, but maybe in the administrative side and make my dream come true, to see Guatemala in a World Cup.”