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Unlocking Raúl Ruidíaz’s potential key to fulfilling Sounders’ potential

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The club wants to get Ruidiaz more touches, but not at the expense of success.

MLS: FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders FC Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

TUKWILA, Wash. — Raul Ruidiaz had just 16 touches in the Seattle Sounders’ 2-1 win over FC Dallas on Sunday. It was the fewest he’s had in any of his four starts since joining the team.

Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer acknowledged that wasn’t enough following the match, but also noted Ruidiaz drew more attention from defenders.

At training Thursday, Cristian Roldan agreed with the sentiment.

“We need to do a better job of getting him the ball,” Roldan said. “As a striker it’s hard to get a rhythm (when they only get 16 touches). At the same time, if he’s only getting those touches and he’s scoring two goals, we’ll take that. We need to do a better job of running for others and creating more space for others to get more touches.”

Ruidiaz has shown flashes of what he can do, despite limited involvement on the ball. In 118 touches, the Peruvian has already provided a goal and an assist, both game-winners, to his new club.

Still, Schmetzer is more concerned about maintaining the form that has seen the Sounders go unbeaten in eight, outscoring opponents 15-5 in that span as they have skyrocketed up the Western Conference standings. As a whole, the Sounders expected goals have increased by about .12 per game in the five matches Ruidiaz has played compared to the other 18 contests. More interestingly, the defense is allowing .23 fewer xG in those games, perhaps suggesting opposing teams are less inclined to throw numbers forward.

“That was just another circumstance of the (Dallas) game,” Schmetzer said. “Not every game is going to be perfect in all areas. I ‘d have to go back and look at how many touches he got against San Jose (34). He got the goal that gave us the 1-0. How do you factor that in? Yes, we’d like to have him be involved more, but I don’t care if he touches it 10 times if he scores three goals. It doesn’t matter to me.”

The good news for Sounders fans is that Ruidiaz seems certain to play against the LA Galaxy Saturday. There had been some concern that the forward might see retroactive disciplinary action for an incident with Dallas defender Reto Ziegler at the end of the Aug. 13 match, but Schmetzer sounded confident when he addressed those concerns Thursday.

“It’s all done and dusted,” Schmetzer said. “He’s available to play, so that’s over.”