FRISCO, Tex. – The last time Carlos Ruiz saw the pitch in an MLS jersey was July 20, 2013 – seeing a full 90 minutes while still with D.C. United. The last time he sported FC Dallas red was way back in 2007.
But Wednesday night, "El Pescadito" picked up his MLS career again, playing the full 90 minutes in his first appearance since signing this month, in a 0-0 CONCACAF Champions League group stage draw against Suchitepequez at Toyota Stadium on Wednesday.
“The sensation is amazing,” Ruiz said after the match. “I wish I could have scored a goal. While the opportunities were there, I need to be a little bit [more] calm to be better in the next game.”
Ruiz was quiet for much of the night, but had a very good chance to become a hero in his first action for an MLS side in more than three years. After receiving a pass alone in the box from a streaking Tesho Akindele, Ruiz had an open shot with lots of space just a few yards from net.
His shot, however, took too much of an upward angle, caroming off the crossbar.
“He’s a really smart player,” Akindele said. “He probably lost a step or two with his speed, but you can see he makes up for it in his reaction time. He was so far open because he made the run before anybody expected it. He’s just thinking a lot faster than most of the people out there.”
The 90 minutes did not come as a surprise to Ruiz, who said he’s fit and feels great, especially after playing 90 minutes in his last international game with Guatemala.
His head coach noticed the fitness too, and said it even caught him by surprise how well El Pescadito was able to perform in his northern return.
“I thought it was much better than we all thought,” said FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja. “[He’s] a player that showed tonight that he still has that talent. He came and combined very well in the first half with services and post and created a lot of gaps and had his options.
“At the end of the day, forwards get measured by their goals, and Carlos knows that. But I have to remark that he was as active as many years ago, and I have to give credit and I’m happy for him.”
Though he did fail to score, games like this one are why Ruiz was brought to FC Dallas for the rest of the 2016 season. Not only is he familiar with Guatemalan soccer, his ability to go 90 minutes also gives Maxi Urruti much needed rest. Urruti has logged 2,215 minutes so far this season in league play, which is nearly double his previous MLS career high.
Ruiz hopes to contribute to the team even more than just CCL play, though. There's more adjustment in store, but he's prepared to do what he needs to in order to contribute.
“I feel good, but I need to be at this level,” Ruiz said. “This level is different. The football is faster, quicker, the players are fast. I’m coming from a league in my country Guatemala where the soccer’s not like that. I’m learning everyday in practice how my teammates play. We have four more regular games in the season, and I need to be 100 percent to help the team.”