Can Raul Ruidiaz save Seattle Sounders FC’s season?
The Sounders are in big-time danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Seattle advanced to the postseason in each of its previous nine years of existence, including reaching the MLS Cup final the past two years. But following Saturday’s 3-2 home defeat to the archrival Portland Timbers, the Sounders find themselves in dire straits. Seattle’s record through 15 games is 3-9-3, and the team’s 12 points place the Sounders in 11th place in the 12-team Western Conference, 11 points out of playoff position.
It isn’t just the fact the Sounders are losing, it’s the manner of their losing that’s problematic. Seattle scored a paltry 13 goals in its first 15 games. The 13 goals are by far the fewest in the league, with every other team in MLS having found the net at least 19 times this season. The Sounders’ 0.87 goals per game is also the worst in the league, with Minnesota’s 1.19 goal per contest being the second-worst rate.
The Sounders hope Ruidiaz is the solution that once again turns around what was thought to be a lost season.
Ruidiaz is the big-time goal-scoring threat Seattle desperately needs. The 27-year-old Peruvian national team member, long rumored to be headed to Seattle, was officially signed as a designed player last Friday after Peru was eliminated from the World Cup. He arrives with a strong track record of scoring in Mexico’s top division, leading Liga MX in goals in both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons while playing for Monarcas Morelia — he scored 40 goals in 72 games across all competitions during his two seasons with Morelia. He’s scored four goals in 31 international appearances for Peru, including appearing as a substitute in two of Peru’s three games at the World Cup.
Ruidiaz has joined the Sounders for training, but is not eligible to play for Seattle until after July 10, meaning he won’t play in the Sounders’ next two games. The first game he’s eligible to play in is the July 15 away game against Atlanta United FC, meaning he can start playing at exactly the midway point of the season — Seattle will have 17 games remaining. Will that leave enough time for Ruidiaz to fire the Sounders back into the playoffs?
Recent history suggests there’s a chance. Seattle seemed well on its way to missing the playoffs the previous two seasons, only to mount furious second-half rallies that carried over into the postseason and resulted in runs to the MLS Cup final, including the team’s first title in 2016. The 2016 season in particular is nearly a mirror image to the current situation. The Sounders were 6-12-2 in late July when coach Sigi Schmid was fired. The coaching change, which happened to correspond with the arrival of Uruguayan international playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro as reinforcement, spurred Seattle to an 8-2-4 finish, a berth in the playoffs, and eventually a lifting of the MLS Cup.
So will Ruidiaz’s arrival have a similar impact? Make your prediction here: