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Why Raúl Ruidíaz didn’t play against Atlanta United

Brian Schmetzer says after the double-yellow that hands were effectively tied.

France v Peru: Group C - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Coming into the Atlanta United match on Sunday, most of the pregame conversation was about the Seattle Sounders’ newly signed Designated Player Raúl Ruidíaz. Based on everything Brian Schmetzer had said in the lead up, the expectation was if the Peruvian was available that he’d play at least some role.

So why didn’t he? You can blame Jordan McCrary’s sending off in the 63rd minute and the Sounders’ decision to prioritize securing a point rather than gambling that they could get all three.

“The only reason why he did not come on was because after the second yellow, we needed Will Bruin to be a big, strong, target guy,” Schmetzer said after the game. “We had to dump balls from goal kicks and set pieces. He needed to win some of those balls. It was our decision to leave Will on in a more defensive game.”

From a tactical perspective, the decision makes a lot of sense. Beyond trusting Bruin’s hold up ability, the other decisions were predicated on bolstering the defense. Kelvin Leerdam entered for Harry Shipp immediately after McCrary’s ejection. Further tying Schmetzer’s hands was an apparent hamstring injury to Chad Marshall, which required him to be replaced by Gustav Svensson in the 73rd minute. By the time Osvaldo Alonso replaced Victor Rodriguez in the 88th minute, the Sounders were in fullblown bunker mode and were effectively playing a 4-4-0-1 with no attacking midfielders.

Still, it would have been nice to see if Ruidíaz could have caught Atlanta on a counter and maybe allowed the Sounders to score a much-needed victory. Either way, Schmetzer said Sounders fans shouldn’t have to wait much longer to see Ruidíaz.

“But certainly, we will see Ruidíaz at home next weekend.”