QUITO, Ecuador (AP) _ After two decades on the roster, Ecuador's veteran midfielder Alex Aguinaga threw in the towel Friday, a week before the team faces Uruguay in a World Cup qualifier.
The 36-year-old's announcement was largely expected, however, after Ecuador's new head coach, Colombian Luis Fernando Suarez, left him off the roster for the Sept. 5 matchup in Montevideo.
``Twenty years ago I put on the Ecuadorean jersey and I have lived good moments, bad moments and difficult moments _ like this _ the saddest in my life, the saddest in my career: my retirement from the national team,'' Aguinaga said at a news conference.
Aguinaga, who played professionally in Mexico for Necaxa and Cruz Azul, recently returned home to play for Liga de Quito in the waning days of his career.
``During the 14 years that I was outside of Ecuador, in Mexico, I didn't once stop thinking about defending my country,'' Aguinaga said in a said voice. ``It has been and will always be my best team.''
He added that he achieved ``the greatest dream of all Ecuadoreans sports fans'' when he helped lead the national squad to play in its first World Cup in 2002.
But Aguinaga, along with several other veterans, found himself off the line up for next month's qualifier after Suarez began cleaning house upon replacing fellow Colombian Hernan Gomez in July.
Gomez stepped down after Ecuador's disappointing showing at the Copa America, held earlier that month in Peru.
It was Aguinaga's eight appearance in the South American tournament, placing him in the Copa America history books alongside Angel Romyear, who helped Uruguay win six of eight Copas from 1916-26.