Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday while with his Peruvian national team, could be available for selection for the club’s Oct. 27 match vs. Vancouver. But a long list of requirements have to be met for that to happen, according to Garth Lagerwey, the Sounders’ general manager and president of soccer.
Lagerway confirmed the positive test on Wednesday and Ruidiaz stated via Instagram Live that he’s asymptomatic. He also used the “Story” feature to post updates about his isolation, including the Pacific Ocean view from his room and toiletries with cleaning products delivered in a clear plastic bag.
“My understanding is he’s doing well,” Lagerwey said of Ruidiaz, who has been in contact with his Sounders coaching staff and teammates. “Being in isolation in a hotel room is probably not his first choice of things to do. Especially for over a week. But (Raul) is making the best of it.”
Peru’s federation has a similar quarantine protocol as Major League Soccer. Ruidiaz is undergoing that 10-day process and if he continues to not show signs of illness, Ruidiaz will be deemed no longer infectious and permitted to travel from Lima to Seattle on a commercial flight paid for by Peru’s national team.
Once in the U.S., Sounders physicians would then examine Ruidiaz. If he passes those tests and evaluations, Ruidiaz would be cleared to immediately play as a “recovered person.”
MLS on Wednesday reduced its mandatory quarantine period by one day to nine, but Ruidiaz would be exempt.
“The idea behind the ‘recovered person’ concept is simply once you’ve had COVID and you have antibodies and you’re not infected anymore, then you’re not vulnerable to get the disease again, in the short-term,” Lagerwey explained during a video conference call with media Wednesday. “It’s roughly a 90-day period where you’re deemed this ‘recovered person’ status. For us, that would take (Ruidiaz) through the end of our season.”
Ruidiaz last played for the Sounders on Oct. 3, scoring a goal in the team’s 3-1 win against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC at CenturyLink Field. He joined his national team on Oct. 7 and played 74 minutes in Peru’s 2-2 draw with Paraguay in a World Cup qualifying match on Oct. 8. Ruidiaz sat out when Peru lost 4-2 to Brazil on Tuesday, but took to Instagram to critique the officiating.
The Sounders are also expecting the return of midfielder Gustav Svensson (Sweden) and center back Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador), who were called-up by their respective national teams. They should also be available for the Oct. 27 match.
Aside from personnel, the pandemic has also impacted the Sounders’ schedule. MLS postponed five Colorado Rapids matches, including one scheduled Wednesday in Seattle, due to an outbreak within the Rapids’ club. The match is unlikely to be rescheduled unless MLS pushes back the Nov. 20 start-date of its playoffs.
There are 25 calendar days remaining until the slated Nov. 8 “Decision Day’ – where MLS schedules simultaneous kickoffs for finale matches in the Western Conference and in the Eastern Conference. The Sounders are playing six games during that period, the next being Sunday at the San Jose Earthquakes.
The scheduling constraints have MLS considering a change in how teams qualify for playoff berths. One option could be points-per-game. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Sounders (9-4-3) lead the Western Conference with 30 points after 16 games and remain in the lead with 1.88 points per game.
There’s concern the pockets of outbreaks could impact even holding the playoffs. But according to multiple reports, the league is not considering sequestering teams to play a postseason in one location. MLS initially returned to play with a tournament at Walt Disney World in Florida last summer.
MLS Cup remains scheduled for Dec. 12.
“I don’t think I should have an opinion,” Lagerwey said when asked what format or qualifier he preferred for the playoffs. “The doctors should. The doctors should tell us what’s right and what’s safe. For right now, we have protocols in place for in-market games that the medical professionals have deemed safe. If at some point they say that’s not safe, I have no doubt that we’ll change.”
Part of MLS’s protocols is same-day travel to away games on chartered flights. Clubs also limit who’s around the technical staff and players. The team is also tested frequently, Lagerwey stating none of the protocols changed after Ruidiaz’s positive result because he wasn’t infectious when he left Washington.
The Sounders reported one positive case for COVID-19 in May. The undisclosed player recovered and rejoined the team.
“Now that (they’re) not in a collective (Florida) bubble, you’re still in a bubble for your team,” Lagerwey said. “When you go home, you cannot go and socialize. You have to be very careful when you’re going to the grocery store, as one example. The less contact outside the home, the better. Our guys have been incredibly disciplined in terms of adhering to those things.”