The thrill of Leagues Cup masked a frustrating stat for Raul Ruidiaz.
The Sounders striker hadn’t scored an MLS goal since subbing on for a road match in Dallas on Aug. 18, nailing the game winner in the 63rd minute. For the following 570 minutes of play — including Leagues Cup and the MLS All-Star game — Ruidiaz only scored once. His second-half stoppage time goal against Santos Laguna advanced the Sounders to the Leagues Cup final earlier this month.
Wednesday’s match against the San Jose Earthquakes was more of the Peruvian’s style. Ruidiaz had an opening-half brace to help the Sounders collect a 3-1 win at PayPal Park.
Ruidiaz has 16 goals in MLS competitions this season. D.C. United forward Ola Kamara leads the league’s Golden Boot race with 17 strikes.
“Raul is a guy that always wants to get on the scoresheet,” Sounders midfielder Danny Leyva said. “The last stretch of games he was unlucky to get a goal but coming into this game he was really focused. … That first goal was a really good team goal overall and for him, it was a good liberation to just get that off his shoulders.”
The Sounders win closed a four-game road trip for the club. Their 9-2-2 record away from Lumen Field this season is Seattle’s best since 2011.
Ruidiaz didn’t finish Wednesday’s match. He was subbed off at halftime due to an apparent left hamstring injury. He appeared to be untouched when the injury occurred in the 45th minute. Ruidiaz was evaluated on-field and remained for the first-half stoppage time before walking gingerly to the locker rooms for the break.
“We are going to just assess Raul when we come back,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “That was precautionary to take him out of the game. We will assess him (Thursday). There were a lot of people that came up with some aches and pains. So, we’ll assess everybody.”
The striker’s opening goal in the 25th minute likely couldn’t have been drawn up better by Schmetzer. It began with an interception from defender Shane O’Neill at midfield. In total, six Sounders players had a touch on the ball before Ruidiaz dribbled a pass from Cristian Roldan into space in the box and sent a left-footed shot into the net.
San Jose keeper James Marcinkowski fouled Roldan in the box to set up Ruidiaz’s second goal. The forward beamed a right-footed shot to the bottom left corner of the net in the 42nd minute, Marcinkowski diving right.
Roldan pocketed his own score in the 49th minute off an assist from Jimmy Medranda. Roldan has scored in his past three matches while Medranda has three assists this season.
“I’m feeling really confident right now,” Roldan told the game’s broadcast team after the win. “In the last couple of games, we’ve been able to get in behind on the left side. That’s something we weren’t able to do in the first half of the season. All of our services was really from the right side and finally we’re getting in behind on the left and it’s just timing my run. All of my goals the last three games have been tap-ins, essentially.”
The Sounders relaxed their defending after the score. O’Neill played a clearance wrong and had an own goal in the 51st minute for San Jose’s only score. The Quakes (8-10-9) increased their pressure but couldn’t challenge the Sounders’ lead.
Seattle (15-5-6) retains its lead in MLS Western Conference standings. The club hosts Colorado on Sunday at Lumen Field. The Rapids (13-4-9) closely trail with 48 points to Seattle’s 51.
“We haven’t been our best at home and that’s something we need to improve on,” Roldan said. “We’re putting ourselves in a really good spot for the playoffs, to get home games for the playoffs, so we have to be really, really good at home so Colorado on Sunday is going to be a big one for us.”
Three called up
The Sounders will be without three players who were called up for international duty. Roldan (U.S.), Ruidiaz (Peru) and Nouhou (Cameroon) are expected to join their respective national teams for World Cup qualifying matches in October.
Notably defender Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador), Alex Roldan (El Salvador) and Brad Smith (Australia) were not requested for repeat duty after making appearances for their national teams in September.
Seattle had its match against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC rescheduled due to its Leagues Cup final appearance earlier this month, so the nationals will miss the Cascadia match on Oct. 9 at Lumen Field.
World Cup qualifying games run through Oct. 14, so the players could be out for the Houston Dynamo road match on Oct. 16. Roldan and Ruidiaz didn’t log a lot of minutes in their last duty this month, both able to play quickly after their return.