Raúl Ruidíaz to the Seattle Sounders. It started as a rumor. Then the hype-meter swung forward when Ruidíaz's agent confirmed to Niko Moreno that the Sounders and Ruidíaz's club Monarcas Morelia were in "the final stages of negotiation." Next, the situation became concrete when Morelia confirmed the transfer on Twitter. And in the last two days, Ruidíaz was spotted via Instagram at the Hyatt in Bellevue.
This has certainly been an exciting last month. And Friday morning, the Sounders made it official.
27-year-old Peruvian forward Raúl Ruidíaz is a new Designated Player on the Seattle Sounders.
Since speedy forward Jordan Morris tore his ACL in the first competitive match of the 2018 season, Sounders FC General Manager Garth Lagerwey has continuously been looking for a replacement at the forward position. When the first MLS transfer window closed on May 1st, Lagerwey told 950 KJR's Jackson Felts on Sounders Weekly, "There are some things available at big premiums and ultimately there wasn't a great value out there for us so we passed on overpaying for a couple of things."
Lagerwey waited until the summer transfer window, which officially opens on July 10th, but has now finalized the deal to bring in a new Sounders forward. While Ruidíaz can train with the team leading up to the 10th, he cannot play for Seattle in a match until July 15th, on the road against Atlanta United, pending the receipt of his P-1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate.
According to a report, the deal is worth 14 million dollars including a seven million dollar transfer fee and salary of seven million dollars per year through 2021. Ruidíaz will be the club's third Designated Player, as Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) is being used to lower the salary of midfielder Osvaldo Alonso.
Ruidíaz comes from Morelia, a Liga MX squad, where he has scored 20 goals in each of the last two seasons. While with Club Universitario in the two years prior, he put up 18 goals in 2015 and another ten in 2016.
The Peruvian forward has also been a member of the National Team since 2011, making 31 total appearances over the last eight years. That includes 21 appearances and four goals in the last three years. Ruidíaz played on Peru's 2018 World Cup roster and checked in at the end of their 1-0 loss to Denmark in the country's first World Cup action since 1982.
How Seattle will incorporate Ruidíaz into their formation is still unknown and a major question for Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. Since early May, Schmetzer has not shied away from using new formations to best fit the talent he has available and match-ups facing the club at the time.
Current starting forward Will Bruin leads the team in goals with three, two more than any other player, and finished 2017 with 11 goals, second-most on the team. Bruin is no doubt still a starting-caliber forward in MLS, but could be placed on the bench when Ruidíaz is ready to start for the club. Schmetzer could also switch to a new two-forward formation that includes both Bruin and Ruidíaz. The Sounders saw success with the two-forward diamond formation during pre-season action in February.
With Ruidíaz still in the prime of his career, expectations are high that he will be able to join Seattle and add an immediate attacking boost to a team that has scored the least amount of goals in Major League Soccer (MLS).
In each of the last two years, Lagerwey has made mid-season additions that have helped the club reach consecutive MLS Cup appearances and a Championship in 2016. He added Nicolas Lodeiro as a DP in 2016 that helped slingshot a struggling club up the Western Conference standings and into the playoffs, where they then brought home the club's first league title.
The Sounders currently sit 11 points behind Vancouver for the final playoff spot with 20 matches remaining in the season. Mathematically, 60 points are still on the table for Seattle. The final Western Conference playoff team in 2017, San Jose, finished with 46 points. That computes to the Sounders needing nearly two points per game for the rest of the season to continue their unprecedented streak of nine consecutive post-season berths.
If Seattle is keep that streak intact, they will need Raúl Ruidíaz to contribute with many goals and victories. The season continues this Saturday against the rival Portland Timbers, Saturday at 1:30pm on CenturyLink Field. Listen to Sports Radio 950 KJR's pre-match coverage, starting at 1:00pm.