UPDATE (Friday): Raúl Ruidíaz appears to be on his way home, according to his Instagram.
Raul Ruidiaz appears to be heading back to Seattle. pic.twitter.com/IMWUCjyJgs— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) April 2, 2021
UPDATE: Raúl Ruidíaz told Pulso Sports that he’s been cleared to return to the United States and that he’s expecting to arrive on Friday.
It’s turning into a major headache.
The Peruvian Designated Player has yet to arrive in Seattle to join his teammates for preseason, in spite of the announcement at the beginning of March that Ruidiaz was close to securing his green card. As the calendar turns to April, Ruidiaz’s ongoing absence has put a serious crimp in coach Brian Schmetzer’s plan to implement a new two-forward formation.
“It’s Wednesday (March 31), [and] if I don’t see him by Friday, my head might pop off of my body,” a visibly frustrated Schmetzer said. “That’s been an arduous process. With all of the challenges in a Covid world, and immigration rules changing how things operate in different countries, it has been a real challenge.”
To be clear, the focus of Schmetzer’s frustration isn’t directed at the front office or those working on the issue. And there are likely things behind the scenes that the Sounders have little control over. But that doesn’t make the time it is taking to resolve the issue any easier to digest for a team missing its most prolific scorer, just over two weeks before the start of the season.
“Grant Clark, our team admin, Gene Ramirez, translating [and] our immigration attorneys have tried to do as much as they could to get Raul here in a timely fashion,” Schmetzer said. “It’s just taking too long.”
Schmetzer said the Sounders have done what they can to keep up with Ruidiaz’s progress, as he is left to work out on his own, including fitness data from his time with the national team.
“The fitness guys are keeping tabs on what Raul has been doing,” Schmetzer said. “I know he is a good pro and he’ll come in and be ready to go.
“As far as I know, he is getting his green card. That’s not the issue.” Schmetzer said. “Would we change things in the future? I doubt it because it’s always beneficial to have your foreign players commit to getting a green card because it helps with your roster. I don’t think we’d do anything different, it’s just been a frustrating process for not just me but for Raul as well.”
The unexpected delay has allowed Schmetzer to see Fredy Montero and Will Bruin on the field together for an extended time, an important silver lining given that Ruidiaz is expected to miss significant time this summer when CONMEBOL starts up World Cup qualifying. Montero scored in Tuesday’s scrimmage against Portland, with Bruin providing the assist. Seeing different players now will certainly be a benefit as the season rolls on, as frustrating as Ruidiaz’s absence may be right now.
“We’re going to have to rotate this year anyway, there’s going to be guys missing for international duties,” Schmetzer said. “I believe it’s worthwhile because when he gets his green card, it opens up another international spot for us.”
- Schmetzer all but confirmed Craig Waibel’s hiring, saying he hoped something would be announced this week.
- Kelyn Rowe missed Tuesday’s match with a quadriceps strain.