The soonest Ruidiaz can take the field for Seattle is four games from now, when the Sounders head to Atlanta for a nationally televised July 15 clash against the league’s top team.
One of the worst-kept secrets in Major League Soccer was confirmed Friday. The Sounders officially announced the signing of Peruvian striker Raul Ruidiaz to a Designated-Player contract, which is worth $14 million and runs through 2021, according to a league source.
Another poorly kept secret is that the team’s season is hanging by a proverbial thread so thin that Ruidiaz can’t be rushed onto the field quickly enough. The soonest that can happen is four games from now, when the Sounders head to Atlanta for a nationally televised July 15 clash against the league’s top team.
Until then, they’ll try to notch some wins and hope the coming arrival of a two-time Liga MX scoring champion and Peruvian national-team fixture brings some badly needed offensive reinforcement after the July 10 opening of the summer-transfer window.
“We’ve made a major investment,’’ Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey said. “It certainly took a big commitment from our owners, but we got our eight-figure player.’’
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The Sounders have wanted for some time to get ink on that eight-figure deal, which includes a $7 million transfer fee to his former Morelia team as well as $7 million in total salary the next 3½ seasons. They’ve been under increasing pressure to add a bonafide scoring threat after a 3-8-3 start that’s threatened their streak of nine playoff appearances.
Ruidiaz, 27, just came off playing for Peru at the FIFA World Cup in Russia, and his plucky team’s first-round elimination paved the way to get him to Seattle sooner. Sounders vice president Chris Henderson had gone to see him play live at the Peruvian team’s training camp.
Ruidiaz will be added to the Sounders roster pending receipt of his P-1 visa and International Transfer Certificate. The goal is for him to play in the Atlanta match if the legal paperwork is done in time.
“That’s certainly what we hope,’’ Lagerwey said.
It’s the biggest Sounders signing since midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro arrived from Boca Juniors in Argentina two years ago and helped lead the team to a second-half turnaround and their only MLS Cup title. The transfer fee for Ruidiaz was $1 million more than the Sounders paid Boca for Lodeiro’s rights. Lagerwey has been seeking another Designated Player striker since striker Jordan Morris was lost for the season to a knee injury in February.
In April, Lagerwey promised an eight-figure DP signing and has strongly hinted that additional offensive help will be added as well. For now, he says candidates have been identified and the team will try to get somebody here as quickly as possible.
Lagerwey also had no immediate updates on defender Roman Torres, who injured an ankle Thursday while playing for Panama at the World Cup. Injuries to key players throughout the season are as big a reason for the slow start, as is the time it’s taken to bring in a proven goal-scorer.
Ruidiaz has scored more than 100 goals in a decade of professional experience in Mexico and South America.
His arrival to Seattle was easily tracked by scores of Sounders fans after the player posted an Instagram photo Wednesday taken from a hotel in Bellevue. The photo was later taken down, but the fact he was already in town came as little surprise given his team was telling Spanish-speaking journalists two weeks ago that the deal with the Sounders was done.
Having Ruidiaz play in the Atlanta match would be a boon not only for the team but MLS as well.
That Atlanta game will be immediately preceded on Fox by the World Cup final, meaning the national viewership numbers for that Sounders match should be huge. And going up against high-powered Atlanta United FC, the Sounders will need all the attack help they can muster.
They’ve scored 11 goals in 14 matches, and forwards Clint Dempsey and Will Bruin have just four goals combined after scoring 23 last year. Ruidiaz, who scored 40 goals over his last two full seasons in Mexico, is expected to take some heat off both.
“He’s been a really good goal scorer for a long period of time,’’ Lagerwey said. “He’s in his prime. We felt like, particularly with Jordan (Morris) going down, we needed an elite finisher.
“And now we feel like we have an elite playmaker in Lodeiro and an elite finisher in Ruidiaz. And hopefully that’s the right combo to build the rest of the team around.’’