Seattle Sounders balancing "risk to reward" with Raul Ruidiaz's injury return

Seattle Sounders FC fans were treated to some good news Tuesday from head coach Brian Schmetzer, who shared that striker Raul Ruidiaz is nearing a return from a hamstring strain.

The Peruvian international has been out since getting injured in the club’s July 9 match vs. the Portland Timbers, missing Seattle’s last three games. 

“Raul is looking very good,” Schmetzer said. “He is shooting, almost in full training.”

Now, will it be enough for the Designated Player to return for Friday night’s marquee matchup at LAFC that jumpstarts Week 23? Schmetzer recognized the allure there, but expressed some hesitation before their trip to Banc of California Stadium (11 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes).  

“Is LAFC, is that an intriguing target, an intriguing timeline to get him? Yeah,” Schmetzer acknowledged. “But I’m not so sure the risk to reward is enough even though it’s national TV, all that, Supporters’ Shield leaders.”

Ruidiaz has dealt with injuries through the 2022 season, playing in just nine of Seattle’s 21 league games (roughly 650 minutes). Often their top attacking threat, he’s scored five goals and provided one assist.

The 32-year-old also memorably bagged a brace as the Rave Green beat Liga MX’s Pumas UNAM in the Concacaf Champions League final’s second leg, securing a FIFA Club World Cup ticket and historic regional bragging rights.

Whether Ruidiaz, who’s in his fifth season in Seattle, returns or not, the club expects a tough test when facing LAFC for the second time in 2022. On June 18, they battled to a 1-1 draw at Lumen Field.

“It’s a fun, good attacking-minded team that has been doing very well so far this season,” said midfielder Albert Rusnak. “They’re at the top of the West, so it’s a good challenge for us. We need the points just as badly as they will want the three points.”

As Rusnak noted, it’s crunch time for Seattle as they chase a 14th-straight Audi MLS Cup Playoffs appearance. They’re 9th in the Western Conference table with 13 regular-season games remaining, one point back of the cutoff.

The LAFC match starts a three-game stretch for Seattle before the 2022 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target arrives Aug. 10. They're also hosting FC Dallas on Aug. 2 and visiting Atlanta United on Aug. 6 before the mini-break.