Raul Ruidiaz was spotted Tuesday on the Lumen Field pitch training with the Sounders FC. The Peruvian striker is under contract for this year, but Ruidiaz may have reached a long-wanted extension with the club.
Ruidiaz’s agent and the Sounders began discussions for an extension early last year, but the talks stalled in the summer. There were reports that Liga MX side Cruz Azul was courting Ruidiaz but the forward dismissed the rumors as standard speculation about his future.
The Athletic first reported Ruidiaz’s new deal was finalized last week, adding midfielder Joao Paulo also had his contract extended. The Brazilian was signed as a designated player in 2020. That contract was recently bought down with Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) to make former Real Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnak a designated player.
Rusnak, who signed last week, joins Ruidiaz and midfielder Nico Lodeiro as Seattle’s DPs.
Nick Negrini of Pulso Sports reported Ruidiaz’s contract is through the 2024 season. Niko Moreno, also of Pulso Sports, stated Joao Paulo’s deal is through 2024.
The official Sounders roster stands at 24 players, 22 of whom made at least one appearance with the club last season. Forwards Will Bruin and Fredy Montero have participated in training this month, indicating they’ve also re-signed. Sounders wingback Alex Roldan is another player out of contract but expected to return.
“We say this every year, but we have a really good squad on paper right now,” Sounders keeper Stefan Frei said after training last week. “We have to go put in the dirty work first and make sure that we can shine on the field. I’m excited to be part of this team.”
Joao Paulo and Ruidiaz were named to the MLS Best XI team and were both All-Stars last year. They dealt with injuries as the club closed the regular season on a six-game winless streak, losing a postseason opener to Real Salt Lake on penalty kicks after a goalless draw.
Ruidiaz, 31, tied Seattle’s single-season record with 17 goals last year, which also tied for third in the league’s Golden Boot race. He’s led the Sounders in scoring since first being signed in 2018 and the Sounders were 10-0-3 when he scored last season.
Joao Paulo, 30, is a crafty two-way player. He tied for sixth in the league with 11 assists and bagged three goals. Among players with at least 10 assists, Joao Paulo was first in tackles won (42), second in interceptions (36) and third in duels won (176).
The Sounders open the 2022 slate with a CONCACAF series against F.C. Motagua in Honduras on Feb. 17 and at Lumen Field on Feb. 24.
Seattle’s MLS opener is against Nashville SC on Feb. 27 at Lumen Field.