It took quite a bit longer than anyone involved wanted, but Raúl Ruidíaz is finally on his way back to Seattle and should be able to return to training early next week, Sounders GM and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey told the media on Friday. Complications with Ruidiaz’s immigration paperwork kept him in Peru, where he’s been training with the national team.
In addition to finally being able to incorporate their star striker into the new two-forward formation, the Sounders will also have an additional international roster spot.
“We are delighted that he’s coming home and he has a green card,” Lagerwey said. “So we have three international spots, all of which we’re planning to use at some point this season.”
While it’s entirely likely that two of those spots won’t be used until the summer, the added flexibility does make it a bit easier to sign someone like Tacoma Defiance centerback Abdoulaye Cissoko to a first-team contract. Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer has previously spoken highly of the 21-year-old Frenchman, but said his international status made the situation a bit trickier.
In the nearer term, just having Ruidíaz back at least allows for the possibility that the Sounders can open their season with something close to a first-choice lineup. While Ruidíaz won’t likely be cleared to participate in time for Sunday’s preseason match against Phoenix Rising, he should be good to go before the April 10 preseason match against San Diego Loyal, which greatly increases the chances that he’d be capable of starting the regular-season opener against Minnesota United on April 16.
In addition to scoring the second-most goals in MLS last year (12), Ruidiaz was also fourth in the league in non-penalty expected goals per 90 (.56) and second in expected goals+expected assists per 90 (.81), according to FBRef.com.