TUKWILA, Wash. – If all goes according to plan for the Seattle Sounders, their prized new acquisition could be making his MLS debut as soon as Sunday.
There are still some logistics to be ironed out for newly-signed Designated Player Raul Ruidiaz before he’s eligible for MLS play, with the 27-year-old striker currently back home in his native Peru going through the final steps of obtaining his work visa. Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer told reporters on Tuesday that "he might be able to meet us in Atlanta" for Seattle's match against Atlanta United at Mercedes Benz Stadium on Sunday (2 pm ET | FOX — Full TV & streaming info).
Exactly what role Ruidiaz will play on Sunday if he is eligible would become the subsequent issue. He’s only trained with Seattle a few times since his signing was announced last month, and while he’s been sticking to a fitness regimen while away from the team, expecting him to start and play all 90 minutes also might not be a realistic proposition.
“If he hasn’t trained with the team, it’s awfully challenging to get a guy in and play 90 minutes,” Schmetzer said. “So, that’ll be a conversation that we have. He has a program that he’s been following to keep himself fit. But, look, if he just shows up on Friday or Saturday, that will be challenging.”
For Seattle, it’s a debut that can’t come soon enough. The Sounders are last in MLS with 15 goals this season — fewer than Atlanta United Golden Boot frontrunner Josef Martinez (18) has scored by himself. But Ruidiaz, a pure No. 9 with a proven track record of putting up prolific goalscoring numbers in Mexico’s Liga MX, has been billed as the antidote for those offensive woes.
On the other side of the ball, the Sounders could also stand to regain the services of defensive midfielder Gustav Svensson, who has been away from the team as well playing for Sweden in the 2018 World Cup. With the Swedes getting knocked out by England after a run to the quarterfinals, Svensson could be headed back stateside in time to meet the team in Atlanta.
“There’s a good chance he’ll be available for selection as well, but I won’t say anything definitive yet,” Schmetzer said of Svensson. “We’re having ongoing talks. Obviously, it’s an emotional time for players after the World Cup. It takes guys a little bit of time to overcome what they’ve been through emotionally. Gustav is a really strong character, he’s got a good mentality, So, I’m sure when he’s ready and when he feels like he can contribute, we’d love to have him back.”