Raul Ruidiaz was candid in a recent interview about the difficulties he’s faced the past two months. The Sounders striker was limited to 60 minutes in the club’s past two matches as he continues to heal from hamstring injuries in both legs.
The Peruvian told MLSsoccer.com this week that he’s “not 100 percent” but close.
If penalty kicks are a marker, Ruidiaz can feel a little more confident. Named to his second MLS All-Star roster, Ruidiaz knocked one home for what turned out to be the game winner to defeat the Liga MX All-Stars 2-1 at Allianz Field in Minnesota on Wednesday.
Ruidiaz, who subbed on in the 62nd minute, did a little shimmy with his arms as the sold-out crowd of 19,727 cheered in celebration.
“I’m still a little afraid after going months without playing but I’m starting to get into my rhythm,” Ruidiaz said before the match. “I’ve had injuries, but always recovered quickly. This year in particular has been the worst one in that regard. There were a lot of moments where I felt very sad and unmotivated. With my family’s help and their support, I was able to get back up. There’s no other way.”
New England Revs midfielder Carles Gil drew the foul in the 70th minute. Even when healthy, Ruidiaz has few chances to take penalty kicks for the Sounders because teammate Nico Lodeiro is a perfect 18 for 18 from the spot in his MLS career, seven across all competitions this season.
There was little debate Ruidiaz would take the kick Wednesday. He calmly aimed a right-footed shot to the bottom right corner.
Liga MX All-Star defender Kevin Alvarez (Pachuca) powered a beautiful right-footed shot from outside the box past New York City FC keeper Sean Johnson in the 85th minute to keep the match close. A possible equalizer was too difficult to convert in the 87th minute.
Sounders forward Jordan Morris joined Ruidiaz as part of the MLS All-Stars roster. The Mercer Island High grad started the showcase alongside two high-scoring Mexican internationals amped to play their countrymen, so Morris went defensive to stand out Wednesday.
Morris prevented a possible score in the 14th minute and picked off a dribble deep in Liga MX’s final third for a counterattack in the 23rd minute. He played the entire opening half.
Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela connected with a cross from LAFC teammate Diego “Chiqui” Palacios for a header in the third minute to open the scoring for the MLS All-Stars. Vela reunited with Mexican international Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (Los Angeles Galaxy) as the head of the attack and Morris on the wing.
MLS has played its All-Star Games against an outside opponent since 2005. Liga MX has been the opposition since 2019, MLS getting their first win against their continental rival last year when the Sounders had six players on the roster.
Morris had two personal rematches with Liga MX players in the first half. Tigres UANL winger Luis Quinones was also a starter; the Sounders defeated his team in the 2021 Leagues Cup tournament opener.
Pumas forward Juan Dinenno was the only Liga MX All-Star the Sounders faced during their CONCACAF Champions League run last spring. Seattle defeated Pumas 5-2 on aggregate scoring for the title, Dinenno scoring both for Pumas.
The striker subbed on in the 32nd minute and was pulled in the 61st after seeing two attempts saved and missing a third. The Mexican side outshot MLS 20-7 overall, Minnesota United FC keeper Dayne St. Clair earning the game’s MVP award for his role in the win.
The U.S. stringing together wins either from the men’s national team (2021 Gold Cup) and CCL made the summer showcase more competitive than normal for an All-Star Game. Morris said he could feel the pressure to win.
“It fuels the rivalry between the leagues,” Morris said in an interview during the ESPN broadcast. “To be the first MLS team to win that (CCL) just shows the growth of MLS. It’s a really exciting moment for the league, for the club and it definitely fueled the rivalry out here.”
Ruidiaz and Morris will rejoin Sounders training this week to prep for Sunday’s match against Real Salt Lake at Lumen Field. Seattle (10-12-2) is one point below the playoff line after a 2-1 loss in Atlanta last week.