But could 2019 be the year of Raul Ruidiaz? The Seattle Sounders hope so, and based on the start to their new striker’s MLS career, he could be giving the league’s back lines fits for years beyond that.
Ruidiaz has only played in 12 games for Seattle since he arrived in July as a Designated Player from Monarcas Morelia of Liga MX. But the 28-year-old hasn’t wasted any time demonstrating his pedigree, with seven goals already to his name in 918 minutes.
Sounders assistant coach Preki was a prolific goalscorer in his own right in his playing days, and has a front row seat to watch Ruidiaz every day in training due to his role working with the team’s attackers. Speaking with MLSsoccer.com after Seattle’s training session at Starfire Sports Complex on Wednesday, Preki said that Ruidiaz’s movement and spatial awareness are qualities that stand out beyond his powerful and lethally accurate shot.
“He’s very opportunistic and smart,” Preki said. “He’s always ready around the box. Inside the box, if the ball comes through, or we make a play, he’s pretty much always in a pretty decent spot to put the ball in the net. So, that’s a good trait of a forward.
“He senses the spaces and where the ball is going to come from, how it’s going to bounce, he always finds himself in good spots. When you have those type of instincts, you’re always going to find yourself in good spots to put the ball in the net, and he’s been putting the ball in the net for us.”
Sounders forward Will Bruin offered up a similar sentiment when asked on Wednesday about his new teammate.
“He’s great in the box,” Bruin said. “If you watch him, his movement in the box, he’s always looking to score. He’s one of those guys, he comes alive when the ball gets in the final third. So, just from training with him and playing with him so far, I’m kind of just trying to watch his movement. He always ends up in good spots.”
Ruidiaz isn’t a one-dimensional poacher, however. The Peruvian is a clinical finisher from anywhere near the 18-yard box, able to strike from distance while also possessing pace and athleticism that allowed him to tee up highlight-reel finishes throughout his time in Liga MX.
“He’s a very good finisher and he hits it with authority, too,” Bruin said.
As his chemistry with his fellow attackers develops, the Sounders expect Ruidiaz’s scoring pace will only increase.
He has established a particularly notable rapport with Sounders midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro – a master at picking out runners with pinpoint through balls and feeds in the penalty box. Seattle’s Uruguayan maestro assisted on both of Ruidiaz’s goals in the Sounders’ 4-0 thrashing of the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
“I feel good, I feel adapted,” Ruidiaz said after a recent training session. “We have an excellent group, which is how we managed the winning streak. I have a good understanding with Nicolas, but also everyone else on the team. We built a team where we’re running and supporting each other on the pitch.”