With flyover video of CenturyLink Field, Raul Ruidiaz appeared to announce his return to the Sounders FC.
The star forward posted the clip on his Instagram “Story” account feature Friday. Ruidiaz tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 11 while in Peru playing for his national team. The Sounders confirmed he was asymptomatic and in isolation for 10 days as part of medical protocols.
Ruidiaz included footage of himself at a Bellevue medical facility and his Seattle-area home on Instagram, further indicating he’s back and healthy enough to be available for selection Tuesday night when the Sounders face the Vancouver Whitecaps FC in Portland.
“When it’s safe for Raul to come back, we will open the doors and bring him back into our little bubble,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said during a video conference call with media last week.
Garth Lagerwey, the Sounders’ general manager and president of soccer, said Ruidiaz would be tested by their medical staff and if still negative could immediately return to full training as a “recovered person” under Major League Soccer safety protocols.
Ruidiaz, who leads the Sounders with nine goals, isn’t the only first-choice starter expected to rejoin the club. Midfielder Gustav Svensson (Sweden) and center back Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) have also returned from international duty. The defenders were in quarantine for nine days before training with the team as normal last weekend.
The trio had mixed results with their national teams. Ruidiaz started in one match before contracting the virus, missing Peru’s loss against Brazil in World Cup qualifiers. Arreaga had two strong performances in World Cup qualifying matches. Svensson served a one-game suspension for a red card and didn’t play in Sweden’s second match, a loss to Portugal in UEFA Nations League group-stage competition.
Seattle had equally mixed results without the mainstay starters, going 1-1-2 in the four matches. Schmetzer played Will Bruin up top, Jordy Delem in the defensive midfielder role and Shane O’Neill in place of Arreaga on the back line.
“It’s been challenging,” Schmetzer said Sunday. “When you lose three experienced, very talented players, it’s always hard. We’ve always had that problem with this club. Last year we had 10 or 11 guys missing. It says something about the ambitions of the club.”
Bruin had a block to protect a scoreless draw against San Jose and a goal in second-half stoppage time to tie Portland. The consecutive starts, score and playing a full 90 minutes in the derby were significant for Bruin. All were firsts since tearing a knee ligament in June 2019.
“The Seattle Sounders never give up; that’s one of the trademarks that makes us a championship team,” Schmetzer said. “Will embodies all of those things. He doesn’t give up. He trains hard. He works hard. For him to score for the team to snatch a point at the end there, that’s something you can actually build momentum on both individually for Will and for the squad.”
Bruin did play during the MLS is Back tournament in July, but his goal during the knockout stage doesn’t count toward career scores because of the competition’s rules.
“It’s good to get that one off my back,” Bruin said during a video conference call. “First one (in the) regular season post-injury. But for a second there I thought they blew the (game-ending) whistle, because everybody was just looking at me. I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ But it ended up counting.”
Seattle (9-4-5) will play Vancouver at Providence Park in Portland. The Whitecaps (7-12-0) are sequestered in the U.S. because of border restrictions between the U.S. and Canada amid the pandemic.
The Sounders lead the Western Conference standings with 32 points and are pushing to win the Supporters’ Shield for the league’s best overall record. However, Toronto FC and the Philadelphia Union need to lose and the Sounders win their remaining four matches in order to have a chance.