SEATTLE, WASH. - Seattle Sounders FC today announced the signing of striker Raúl Ruidíaz as the club's newest Designated Player. The 27-year-old comes to Seattle from Liga MX side Morelia, where the Peruvian international has spent the last two seasons as one of Mexico’s elite goal-scorers. Ruidíaz earned Campeón del Goleo titles for the 2016 Apertura and 2017 Clausura by leading each competition in regular-season tallies, and has recorded 40 Liga MX goals in his two full seasons for the Michoacán side (including playoffs). That mark places him second in scoring amongst all players in the Mexican first division over the past two years. Overall, Ruidíaz brings close to a decade of topflight experience from Mexico and South America to Seattle, in addition to his recent participation in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia for the Peruvian National Team. He is being added to Sounders FC's roster pending receipt of his P-1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate, and is eligible to play for the club after Major League Soccer’s secondary transfer window opens on July 10.
“We are thrilled to complete the signing of our top Designated Player target in Raúl Ruidíaz,” said Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey. “Negotiations for players of this caliber are never easy, stretching across many months with the support of our entire club. Collectively, we were relentless in our pursuit of Raúl because he is a proven difference-maker at the highest levels of the game. Wherever he has played, he has made his teams better, scoring well over 100 professional goals in the process. Most recently he played an integral role helping Peru qualify for its first FIFA World Cup since 1982, and his experience as one of Liga MX’s top performers over the past two years will aid our club immediately. We’re excited to welcome Raúl to Seattle.”
The Peruvian joins Seattle’s roster as its newest Designated Player, as Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) was used to lower the salary budget charge of midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, thereby freeing one of the club's three Designated Player positions. Ruidíaz joins frontline teammates Nicolás Lodeiro and Clint Dempsey as Seattle’s current Designated Players, the maximum number allowed by MLS. He is the club’s 12th Designated Player since Seattle’s inaugural MLS season in 2009. Ruidíaz is also occupying one of Sounders FC’s international roster slots.
Ruidíaz joined Morelia in 2016 and instantly became one of Mexico’s elite strikers, leading Liga MX with 20 goals in the 2016-2017 campaign (11 in Apertura play, nine in the Clausura). The Peruvian spearheaded Morelia’s attack with another 20 goals in the 2017-2018 season. Ruidíaz’s 40 goals in Liga MX action (including playoffs) over the past two years trail only Tigres’ André-Pierre Gignac in total production in that span (41 goals). He helped Morelia advance to Liga MX’s playoff tournament, Liguilla Torneo, in three of his four seasons, including a semifinal appearance in the 2017 Apertura in which Morelia fell to top-seeded Monterrey. During a stretch from August 17-September 26, 2017, Ruidíaz scored a goal in six-consecutive Liga MX matches, recording seven total during that span. He also recorded three hat tricks in his time with Morelia, a 4-0 win over UNAM (April 29, 2017), a 4-2 win over Santos Laguna (July 31, 2016) and a 3-2 win over León (April 7, 2018).
“We are very pleased to bring in a player of Raúl’s quality and add him to our current squad,” said Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “He has a strong resume as a goal-scorer in both Mexico and South America, so we’re looking forward to seeing how that translates to MLS and helps our club succeed on the field.”
Prior to his time with Morelia, Ruidíaz enjoyed a lengthy career in South America, mainly for his hometown side Universitario of the Peruvian First Division. After helping the Lima-based club to the league title in his first professional season in 2009, Ruidíaz spent two more seasons with Universitario before short stints with Brazilian club Coritiba and Chilean side Universidad de Chile, the latter of which allowed him to make nine appearances in a semifinal run in the 2012 Copa Libertadores, South America’s premier club knockout competition. After moving back to Universitario, Ruidíaz exploded for his best professional season at the time, scoring 21 goals in 39 appearances and leading his club to another league title. He went on to record 36 goals in 47 league appearances for Universitario in the following three seasons before the move to Morelia.
“Raúl is a player that we believe can come in and make an immediate impact in our attack,” said Sounders FC VP of Soccer & Sporting Director Chris Henderson. “The success he has had in Liga MX speaks for itself, and in the time spent scouting him, I’ve seen a lot of influential qualities that will help our squad not only this season, but in the years going forward.”
Ruidíaz has 31 career caps and four goals for the Peruvian National Team. He made his international debut on June 7, 2011 against Japan before being called into Peru’s 2011 Copa América squad that finished third, with Ruidíaz starting and logging 90 minutes in a 1-0 Group Stage loss vs. Chile. In the 2016 Copa América Centenario held in the United States, Ruidíaz made three appearances for a Peruvian side that advanced to the Quarterfinal Round, thanks to a goal by Ruidíaz in a 1-0 win over Brazil in the final match of the Group Stage. Most recently, he was named to Peru’s roster for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, making substitute appearances in two Group C matches for his nation versus Denmark on June 16 and France on June 21.
Sounders FC now turns its attention to its only 2018 home matchup against its oldest rival, as the Portland Timbers come to town for a Cascadia Cup showdown on Saturday, June 30. Kickoff for that contest is slated for 1:30 p.m. PT at CenturyLink Field, with FOX carrying the showcase MLS match following the network’s FIFA World Cup coverage earlier in the day. Seattle has never lost to Portland at home in MLS regular season play, with the Rave Green carrying a 7-0-3 record against the Timbers at CenturyLink Field since the Oregon club joined Sounders FC in MLS. All-time, the two clubs just played their 100th match against one another in all competitions dating back to 1975, with Portland claiming a 1-0 result at Providence Park on May 13. Seattle leads the all-time series dating back to the North American Soccer League with an overall record of 50-36-14.
Transaction: Seattle Sounders FC signs forward Raúl Ruidíaz as a Designated Player on June 29, 2018.