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Seattle Sounders vs. 2019: End-of-season player ratings, #2

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Making the most of every touch, Raúl Ruidíaz.

#2 Raúl Ruidíaz

Realio’s rating: 6.96 in 26 appearances

Community rating: 6.94

Regular Season: 6.68 in 22 appearances - Playoffs: 8.50 in 4 appearances

MOTM = 2 High = 10 Low = 5

In his second year in Seattle, Raúl Ruidíaz drops one spot to second on the Realio Ranking list. He had 10 more appearances in 2019, probably explaining the small drop in his year-end ranking. Raúl is fantastic, a pure striker who tilts the game in Seattle’s favor in a ton of ways at once. His movement off the ball is textbook, constantly twisting opponents into pretzels and ruining any defensive shape. He defends and links up from the front, showcasing tremendous work rate and determination on both sides of the ball, his leadership is obvious, as he consistently works to involve teammates on and off the field, and he is a spectacular assassin in the box, finishing even the tiniest of chances from myriad angles and using any part of his body. Ruidíaz can score from anywhere, but he is best in the box, ghosting around to find pockets of space and eluding defenses to score nearly every time he gets a chance.

What I liked: Once again Raúl was an absolute MONSTER in the playoffs. He is by far the greatest playoff performer the Sounders have ever had, which is saying a lot! Just like last year where he had both MOTM awards in the playoffs on the way to an 8.5 rating, Raúl did it again. He rated 8, 8, 10, and 8 in the 2019 playoffs, earned a MOTM for his LAFC performance, and was the best player in the entire MLS Playoffs. There is something about this guy that just ignites in the post season. He has now played six matches in the playoffs and scored seven goals to go with four assists. You might have thought last year was a bit of a fluke, and when teams had a full year and a half to scout and figure out how to defend this guy he would be shut down, but the opposite happened. He turned into a completely un-guardable assassin in the 2019 playoffs, averaging six shots, one goal and one assist per match. All that is simply amazing but he also contributed defensively, with holdup play, assisting others, making off ball runs, singing teammates lullabies the night before games, and filling Schmetzer’s coffee on throw-ins. Against LAFC in what was one of the best Sounders performances ever, Raúl was unstoppable:

Everything started up front. The entire team defended heroically all night and none as much as the forward, who had ten defensive actions, seven of which were inside the Seattle half. This dedication to defending constantly hampered any possession rhythm around the back for LAFC and created counterattacks that had the home team looking behind them and tentatively moving the ball around for long stretches of the match. When Raúl got the ball he immediately knew where it should go, making definitive lay off passes or slickly turning to score on Tyler Miller. I have to call out the first goal, as Raúl hit it so hard with the top of his laces in a diagonal motion that it actually knuckled to the top right corner of the goal while everything in his form looked to be bottom left. I’m still trying to process how he did this! (And no doubt so is Miller, who was juked out of his socks by this shot.) Raúl’s confidence was oozing and you could see it early and often as he barely missed audacious first-time volleys. Given another look at the goal in the 64th, he put it away, smiling before it even hit the net.

What I didn’t like: I was surprised to see only 26 appearances for Raúl, as he missed 12 matches due to injury and international play. That is a lot, and Seattle struggled to replace his production when he was missing. Raúl is so good and the Sounders rely so much on his skillset, that when he’s not available the team struggles. Ignoring his two late sub appearances after injury where he got “5” ratings, the only below average rating he got this year was against RSL when he was paired up front with Luis Silva in a 5-3-2 lineup. This didn’t work well for Seattle and Raúl was held to a single shot. Although Seattle seems dialed into the 4-2-3-1, it would be nice to see Ruidíaz function well in other setups. While Raúl was absolutely incredible in the postseason, he “only” tied for 4th on the team over the first 34 matches. That’s good, but now that we see what he can do in crunch time, why not all the time? #hellagreedy.

Moving forward: Raúl is a bonafide star in MLS and has produced at a rate as good or better than any other striker in the league during his short time as a Sounder and has been worth every penny. As long as Nico Lodeiro is around to find him, Raúl will score goals for the Sounders, and these two have amazing soccer chemistry. Having improving players like Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan to support will only increase the opportunities for Ruidíaz to do what he does best, although Raúl was excellent combining with Victor Rodriguez as well — there is a huge opportunity for Seattle to improve their offense by adding another attacking player to fill the hole that V-Rod left, and any new player that improves the offensive shape will only create more space for Ruidíaz to work. He doesn’t need much room or many touches to drastically change the match complexion as he can get a shot on goal from nearly anywhere. Seattle should continue to surround him with facilitators, and he will continue to produce.