Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer understood the frustration even if a full CenturyLink Field audience couldn’t.
On Saturday, Raul Ruidiaz returned to the starting lineup for the first time since March because of a heel injury, getting 16 touches. But just as Ruidiaz felt he was getting comfortable on the field again, the striker missed his fourth shot attempt of the match against Houston in the 72nd minute and was pulled in the 73rd.
Ruidiaz ripped his shirt off in anger. Not the return he wanted.
Wednesday against Orlando City SC provided a reset. The self-proclaimed Mega Striker was able to get back into his scoring ways to help the Sounders beat Orlando 2-1.
“Yes, it was a difficult moment,” said Ruidiaz through an interpreter of Saturday. “All of us forwards, we want to always score. If we don’t, it’s not a good moment. But the important thing is we got the three points that game and today, with my collaboration, we were able to get another three points. … Most of all, I’m very happy for the victory.”
Ruidiaz opened the scoring in the 19th minute. He received a perfect give-and-go assist from left defender Brad Smith that midfielder Harry Shipp sent into play and Ruidiaz booted the ball across the goal. It was his fourth of the season.
Sounders midfielder Jordan Morris suffered a strained hamstring in the 52nd minute and needed a substitution, leading to the Sounders’ second goal. Schmetzer went with Handwalla Bwana, who used his speed to catch up to a Nico Lodeiro pass and score in the 68th minute.
Bwana, a former University of Washington star, did a back handspring and backflip to celebrate his first goal of the season. It was Lodeiro’s MLS-leading seventh assist this season.
“I’m going to have to come up with something new,” said Bwana when he was told Schmetzer worried about him getting injured from the acrobatics. “I did it at UW. I probably started doing it since I was 7.”
The Sounders (7-1-4) retained pressure but goalkeeper Stefan Frei was caught off-guard in the 75th minute when forward Chris Mueller buried a goal in the net. The play moved Orlando within a goal of Seattle’s lead, but the visitors couldn’t find the equalizer.
Orlando City SC (3-6-3) had a tight turnaround in losing in Atlanta on Sunday and flying cross country for the match in Seattle.
To counter the travel, Orlando coach James O’Connor changed the entire starting lineup. Four players received their first starts for the club, including goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh, while defenders Oriol Rosell and Lamine Sane were the only players who had started for City in the past month.
The Sounders were without left winger Victor Rodriguez (hamstring) and defenders Chad Marshall (knee) and Gustav Svensson (hamstring).
Wednesday’s match was the Sounders’ last at CenturyLink Field until June 29. The club’s upcoming four games are on the road, beginning with Eastern Conference leader Philadelphia on Saturday. MLS will have a hiatus June 14-21 for the opening week of the
CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“I have a lot of confidence in that group,” Schmetzer said of his team. “You could look at this game and say, was it our best soccer performance?
“There were things we could do better…One thing that team possesses is and always does — and is going to help us on the road — is they don’t like to lose. They put us under pressure and our guys didn’t wilt.”