TUKWILA — The Sounders are preparing to have in-depth conversations with Xavier Arreaga after the defender reposted a cartoon that appeared to be transphobic on his Instagram account this week.
Arreaga is with his Ecuadorian national team for the final training and matches before the FIFA men’s World Cup in Qatar. On Tuesday he reposted an illustration with a television beaming rainbows into the heads of two children. Arms extended from the TV set show a pair of blue pants in front of the girl and a pink skirt in front of the boy. Another set of arms from the television are coiled around two adult figures, suspending them in the air with a hand covering their mouths.
Dominican Christian rapper Redimi2, born Willy Cruz, posted the illustration to his account that has 2.4 million followers with the caption “A picture is worth a thousand words,” as translated from Spanish. Many, including Sounders fans who saw Arreaga’s stories, deciphered the illustration to mean media is prompting children to question their gender identity and Arreaga is supportive of that belief.
Arreaga was unavailable for comment and isn’t expected to return to Seattle until next week. He deleted the illustration from his Instagram stories and posted an explanation in English to his page that has also been deleted. It read, in part, “I reposted a post of a famous Christian artist in my Instagram stories which at the time seemed normal to me and without thinking that this image was going to cause and hurt the people of our community, which never it was my intention. I want to express that I respect the way of life and thinking of all people.” Arreaga also tagged the Sounders in the post.
“I don’t agree with it at all,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said Wednesday when asked about the illustration. “From a club standpoint, a lot of people were hurt about that Instagram post and they have a right to be hurt. Xavi apologized, and when he comes back I will have a good conversation with him and try to help him out, and then we also, within the club, have a really good social-equity network. He’ll sit down with them and talk things through and just make sure he understands what he said wasn’t correct.”
The Sounders stood in support of children who identify as transgender during the CONCACAF Champions League run in May when leadership for CONCACAF demanded an “Emerald City Supports Trans Kids” sign be removed from Lumen Field’s Brougham End supporters’ section. Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer has also proclaimed he would like his organization to be among those that “effectuate change,” which would require complicated conversations.
Regardless of opinions, MLS and the club hold social-media training annually, so Schmetzer didn’t excuse Arreaga’s decisions because his official accounts are new. Arreaga, 27, originally signed with Seattle in 2019 and in February received a lucrative contract extension through 2023 with options for 2024 and 2025.
Schmetzer said the Sounders have had conversations to return Raul Ruidiaz (Peru) and Alex Roldan (El Salvador) from national team duty to play in Tuesday’s home match against FC Cincinnati, but it appears Ruidiaz won’t receive approval.
The striker was snubbed for World Cup qualifying matches earlier this year. New national team coach Juan Reynoso, who was hired in August, called the 32-year-old in for this international window and told reporters Thursday that Ruidiaz will be available for selection for Saturday and Tuesday’s friendlies.
Peru plays Mexico at the Rose Bowl in California on Saturday and El Salvador at Audi Stadium the same night as Seattle’s match.
“Raul, no, impossible,” Reynoso told Pulso Sports of Ruidiaz leaving early, as translated from Spanish. “Raul would also play on Tuesday and on Wednesday he would appear at his club at the latest.”
Schmetzer intimated players seeking exemptions — even to help a club team’s playoff push — might hurt their future with their national team.
“That’s the conundrum,” Schmetzer said. “If you snub your nose with the national team, chances are you ain’t gonna make it back. So, respectful conversations have to happen and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
A different boost?
Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan joined portions of training Wednesday, his first since undergoing groin surgery in August. He did not feature in the team’s scrimmage Thursday at Starfire Sports in Tukwila.
Schmetzer had first team players face Tacoma Defiance players, alongside Nico Lodeiro, who’ll miss Tuesday’s match because of yellow-card accumulation. The team is off Friday and will return Saturday to gear-up for the must-win FCC game.
If Roldan hasn’t suffered any setbacks, Schmetzer said he could make an appearance Tuesday. Roldan wasn’t expected to return until the Oct. 2 road match against Sporting Kansas City.
Roldan’s World Cup hopes are also motivating his rehab. There’s a chance he could make the U.S. national team roster but probably would have to show he’s fully fit before those decisions are finalized in October.
“(Cristian) just has to be pain-tolerant,” Schmetzer said of Roldan rejoining the Sounders rotation. “We’re not going to force him out there if it’s still really painful. He’s feeling good and I know he wants to play.”
Seattle (12-16-3) is four points below the playoff line with three games remaining.