Bryan Ruiz (#10) has scored 12 goals in 40 all-time World Cup Qualifying games for Costa Rica. (Photo: AFP Services)
HARRISON, New Jersey -- If there is one thing Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz has learned it's not to take anything for granted in FIFA World Cup qualifying.
The 2016 CONCACAF Men's Player of the Year recalled the 2010 qualifying cycle in which the Central American power missed out due to posting only one win in the last five matches, before falling to Uruguay in a playoff (agg: 1-2).
"I have been in three or four qualifying cycles and I know how difficult it is to close out qualifying," Ruiz said Thursday. "It was a very bitter situation for all of us. We learned from that. Now we have reached the stage where qualifying is really big.”
The Ticos (3W-2D-1L, 11 points) enter Friday night's game against the host United States (2W-2D-2L, 8) at Red Bull Arena in second place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal with four games remaining.
"One point will help us, but we're definitely looking for the three points," remarked the 32-year-old Ruiz, who is expected to play despite being out three weeks with an injury.
"The last three weeks I worked really hard with the coach and trainer," he noted.
A healthy Ruiz could make life difficult for any team and the U.S. knows that stopping him can go a long way in securing a win.
"He's their key and it’s something that we need to be very, very aware of," stressed U.S. defender Tim Ream. "We need to get around him and put as much pressure on him as possible. If we do that, we neutralize the majority of their chances."