TUKWILA, Wash. – With the return of Léo Chú from suspension and Cristian Roldan getting closer to 100%, Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer will have some extra options when picking the starting lineup for Wednesday’s match against the Colorado Rapids.
Unfortunately, one player who is unlikely to be in consideration is Raúl Ruidíaz. The Sounders forward was not training on Tuesday and will likely be unavailable for the match after suffering yet another muscle injury. Ruidíaz played 62 minutes against FC Dallas, but it was not immediately clear when he picked up the injury.
"He’s got a tight hamstring," Schmetzer said. "We’re working on him inside. I’ll give you a further update when we get back or if he comes ... we’ll let you know."
Should he miss the game, it will mark the fourth time this year that Ruidíaz has been shelved with some sort of muscle injury after missing nearly half of the Sounders' matches in 2022.
In an attempt to keep him healthy, the Sounders have tried a variety of approaches, including limiting his minutes. Ruidíaz started in 11 of 18 league appearances and has only gone as much as 80 minutes in seven games. With five goals, he's also on pace to have his least productive season since his first professional season in 2015.
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Morris at the 9?
Jordan Morris is the player most likely to fill in for Ruidíaz, giving him another opportunity to play the No. 9 position where he's been reasonably productive this year. Of Morris' 11 goals across all competitions, six have come when he's been deployed up top.
As productive as he's been at that position, Morris provided a bit of a reminder at the end of the Dallas game as to why coaches have sometimes been reluctant to make that move permanent.
In the dying moments, Josh Atencio put Morris in for what promised to be a good look at a game-winning goal. But rather than shoot, Morris elected to pass to Nouhou who was streaking in from the left, and the ball was cut out by the defender to end the threat.
Schmetzer said he heard from numerous people in the time since, giving their opinion on what Morris should have done there. Schmetzer admitted that it's not a necessarily cut-and-dry choice between shooting and passing, though.
"Yes, he could be more greedy," Schmetzer said. "But when he made the decision to pass the ball to Nouhou, there is one thing he maybe could have done better that I challenged him on, was he saw the situation, he saw Nouhou coming for the tap-in. But with the defender and his momentum, if he takes one more touch the defender isn’t going to catch him. The goalkeeper is still in no-man’s land, then he cuts it back to Nouhou and Nouhou puts it in, everyone is saying what a great goal. Which is the same if he shoots sand scores. But the learning curve I want him to think about is those instincts in the 18-yard box, ‘How do I make that pass to Nouhou’. He agreed."
Roldan's potential return
The other factor that should help the Sounders' weather Ruidíaz's absence is the potential return of Cristian Roldan to the starting lineup. Roldan played 28 minutes off the bench against FC Dallas on Saturday, his first appearance in nearly two months after suffering his second concussion of the season.
Aside from some rust, Roldan looked mostly like his old self despite taking an inadvertent slap to the face shortly after entering the match. That little incident may have ultimately been for the best, Schmetzer said.
"He was a little nervous when the guy smacked him," Schmetzer said. "He said it was harder than it looked. We talked about how he feels. We looked at him. Today is a big day. We’re on the road to recovery. Maybe not 100%, but there were no adverse effects from that inadvertent hand to face. Maybe it was a good thing to get hit and for him to get up right away."