One of the most decorated strikers in CONCACAF history, Carlos Ruiz, has been ruled eligible to play, both domestically and internationally, effective as of Monday. Guatemala's all-time leading scorer will be available to play against the United States men's national team in the pair of World Cup qualifiers between the two nations in March.
Ruiz, 37, was suspended for up to six months in November when he was found guilty of referee assault during a league match in Guatemala. However, the Guatemalan Football Federation made the decision on Monday that the six matches he'd already served was punishment enough for the infraction he committed. This ruling makes him available for selection for both the home and away matches between the U.S. and Guatemala on March 25 and 29.
The situation is not too dissimilar to Jermaine Jones' situation, who also faces a six match ban from his actions towards a referee in MLS playoffs in November. His luck unfortunately isn't as good and will miss both matches barring an unforeseen turn of events.
It's safe to say that the two qualifiers against Guatemala will be the most important of this World Cup cycle so far as they will play a huge part in determining which two countries in Group C will qualify for the Hexagonal in 2017. The U.S. are currently tied atop the group with Trinidad & Tobago on four points, while Guatemala sit in third a point behind, and lowly St. Vincent and the Grenadines lag behind pointless. Each team still have four matches remaining.
Now that Ruiz is available for both matches, the back line of the USA will be sweating just little bit harder as next month approaches. The veteran attacker may be long in the tooth, but he's still intelligent and dangerous. He'll be an area of focus in the USA's defensive game plan, for sure.