Sounders sign Peru striker Raul Ruidiaz as designated player
TUKWILA, Wash. (AP) — Raul Ruidiaz is known for scoring goals every imaginable way. The struggling Seattle Sounders will be thrilled if he can score a few for them.
The Sounders have signed Peruvian striker Ruidiaz to a designated player contract. The struggling Sounders hope Ruidiaz can provide a spark as they attempt to defend their Western Conference title.
Seattle announced the deal Friday following Peru's exit from the World Cup. Ruidiaz was on the roster for the Los Incas, but he didn't see the field in any of the three group stage games. Ruidiaz immediately left Russia for the Pacific Northwest, posting images on social media from the Seattle area.
"Offensively, I think I can help out by seeking out the spaces and be able to find them," Ruidiaz said through a translator following his first training session with the team Friday morning. "Scoring goals, it's the most beautiful thing. You celebrate them whatever way they come."
Ruidiaz is coming off two seasons with Morelia, where the 27-year-old led LigaMX in goals in both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. Ruidiaz had 19 goals last season.
Ruidiaz's signing in Seattle has been expected for a few weeks after his previous club tweeted a thank-you to the striker earlier this month.
He will be eligible to play for the Sounders after July 10.
"It still helps the team knowing he is here and knowing he'll train a little bit and help the squad," Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said. "It's still a boost. He played in Morelia with a 4-2-3-1 (formation), and that's how we play.
Ruidiaz will join a Seattle attack that has struggled from the start after forward Jordan Morris was lost for the year to a torn knee ligament before the MLS regular season began. The Sounders have just 11 goals in 12 games, eight fewer than any other team in the league.
"Does hit fit in with Will Bruin, does he fit in with Clint Dempsey? All those things we'll see on the training field," Schmetzer said. "What you see on film is he's a really fantastic goal scorer."
The Sounders have scored more than one goal three times in 12 games. Seattle's three wins are tied for second-fewest in the league.
How quickly Ruidiaz is able to help turn things around will ultimately determine whether the Sounders can continue their streak of making the MLS Cup playoffs every season since joining the league in 2009.
"Anytime I join a team, my objective is to help a team gain a star on their badge," Ruidiaz said.
Seattle general manager Garth Lagerway is counting on it.
"I think it's about believing in ourselves," Lagerway said. "What I think introducing Raul now may do is just give us that little spark of 'Hey, we're really good. We just have to put this together on the field and play together a little bit.' "
Asked about his favorite way to score, Ruidiaz replied, "If you ask me specifically, I have more goals that I score with right foot. But I have goals that I score with other areas of my body, as well."
Internationally, Ruidiaz is best known for scoring the controversial goal in Peru's 1-0 win over Brazil in the group stage of the 2016 Copa America Centenario that knocked the Brazilians out of the competition and advanced Peru to the knockout round. Ruidiaz scored using his right hand to help direct a cross into the net, but it was missed by officials.