It’s officially official. On Friday morning, forward Raúl Ruidíaz became a Seattle Sounder.
The process can take years — from initially being placed on the club’s radar to negotiations with the player’s agent to putting the ink to paper — but such is life in the maddening world of the international transfer market.
“We’re very excited to be able to add Raúl to our team and we’re excited to have him come to Seattle,” General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey said. “We need, maybe, that one, true difference maker up top, and hopefully Raúl will be that.”
- FAST FACTS: Get to know Raúl Ruidíaz
In Ruidíaz, the Sounders have a dynamic, versatile scoring threat. He’ll be able to make runs behind the back line, directly attack defenders, creatively combine with the midfielders and, despite being just 5-foot-7, he has a knack for placing headers, too. If there’s opportunity to score, “the Peruvian Messi" finds a way to make it happen.
“You can see immediately that the variety of the shots and goals he took was really different [from one another],” Lagerwey said. “That spoke to a very flexible striker and looked like a guy who didn’t need a lot of room to score goals…We wanted somebody who is just technically a very good finisher, a good striker of the ball, always has things on target.”
Ruidíaz was a two-time league scoring champion for Morelia in Liga MX. | Getty Images
Ruidíaz came to Seattle directly from Russia, where he participated with Peru in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. He took the field off the bench in a couple matches, but Peru were unable to advance past the group stage. In all, the 27-year-old Lima native has 31 caps for Peru, including four goals.
“This club has always been a winning club,” Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said. “Having players who have it within themselves to be winners, to help their teams be successful, to have the type of character to do the little things that it takes to help their club be successful, those are all the attributes that we want to have in our big players.”
The technical staff believes that fits the profile of Ruidíaz, too, and for good reason. He has played professionally in Brazil, Chile, Peru and Mexico — he won league titles in Peru and Chile — and he was a two-time Liga MX scoring champion while with Morelia, where he spent the past two years.
When Jordan Morris went down with a torn ACL in February, the club’s position of need was evident. Will Bruin is a productive forward, particularly in the air, while 35-year-old Clint Dempsey made more sense underneath the attack. A true No. 9 striker would be ideal to complement the current attack, but Rudíaz wouldn’t be available until the summer window following the FIFA World Cup.
“With Jordan’s injury, we definitely had to adjust and start looking at guys,” Vice President of Soccer & Sporting Director Chris Henderson said. “He’s a guy who we’ve been tracking pretty closely. Just in the last six months, it’s really picked as we’re looking for that No. 9 position.”
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the guy we wanted in the window immediately when Jordan was injured, but certainly we tried to address this as soon as we could,” Lagerwey added. “[Ruidíaz] is someone who could be with us for half a season — 17 games — and hopefully that is enough to drag us back in the playoffs.”
Much like Nicolás Lodeiro in 2016, Ruidíaz joins the club at a difficult and uneasy time, with the Rave Green netting just 12 points through 14 matches. Seattle’s 11 goals are eight fewer than the next-closest club. While there is a challenge in ordaining an incoming player as the season’s savior, it does speak to the type of talent the club is focused on acquiring.
“We’re always going to try and get the best players available and try to win games, try to win championships,” Schmetzer said. “That’s what we do in Seattle."