Raul Ruidiaz has been a key part of an attacking Seattle Sounders side since his arrival in 2018. This tactical analysis in the form of a scout report will look at how Ruidiaz fits into the tactics used by Seattle. We will provide an analysis of what has made him a key part of the attack for the MLS side.
Ruidiaz has broken club records since his arrival from Mexican side Club Atletico Morelia. He became the fastest player to score 10 goals in MLS play for the Sounders in just 14 games. Alongside this, he has also scored in the most consecutive appearances, over eight games. In November 2019, Ruidiaz scored the final goal in the 3-1 win over Toronto to win the MLS Cup.
In 2020 he started the season with five goals from eight games. Level with teammate and former trialist with Bundesliga side Werder Bremen, Jordan Morris, they are joint 3rd in the league behind Chris Mueller (six) and Diego Rossi (nine).
Ruidiaz is excellent with his movement to find and create space. At 1.69m, he is not a player looking to win the ball in the air or through physical battles with defenders.
Where possible he will look to find a position behind the defender, forcing his opponent into a position where they are unable to see both him and the ball. This way he is able to delay his movements until a point where the defender focuses on the ball rather than Ruidiaz.
With attacks being started on the wing, Ruidiaz awaits to ensure he arrives to attack the ball. Timing his run correctly ensures he is not arriving early to receive a pass which hasn’t been played. This would provide the defenders the opportunity to organise and recover. In the above image, Ruidiaz focuses on getting out of sight of the central defender who needs to monitor the attack out wide as well. Ruidiaz looks to provide a crossing option for the wide player in front of the central defender.
The following image shows Ruidiaz’s position from another wide attack. Again, he positions himself on the back of the central defender looking to time his movement to arrive in the box as the ball does.
As the ball is delivered, Ruidiaz has positioned himself in the area awaiting a cross in the channel between the goalkeeper and defenders. A pass along the edge of the six-yard box would see Ruidiaz arrive to shoot.
Over the 5 matches of regular season play, Seattle have managed 52 shots on goal with 50 of these being foot shots. Only two shots were made with the head. The side use their speed and quick movement of the ball to attack teams on the ground which fits Ruidiaz’s style of play perfectly.
The following image again shows Ruidiaz finding his space on the back of the defender using slow sidesteps. He looks for the moments when the defenders’ sight is fixed on the ball to position himself in the most dangerous areas.
As the ball is played forwards, the defender has to commit to the other forward attacking the box. This leaves Ruidiaz unmarked in the centre of the penalty box. Space has been created as the right-sided defender did not engage Ruidiaz early.
As he moved closer to the central defender, who was now forced to commit, space was created in-between the defenders.
Along with his movement along the defensive line, Ruidiaz is capable of dropping deep and keeping possession. The following image shows how Seattle use quick wall passes to build an attack. They utilise fast movement off the ball and one-touch passing.
A pass is made forwards from the left-back and a one-touch pass from Ruidiaz lays the ball into the path of the CM. Ruidiaz turns and looks for space to attack. Wide forward, Morris, immediately turns and provides a vertical option as Ruidiaz passes off the midfield.
The ball is played down the line, and Morris has gained the attention of the three defenders around him. Ruidiaz moves slowly at first to lose the attention from the defenders and picks up speed to attack the open space.
From Wyscout data across all competitions from the past year, Ruidiaz has had 76 shots. 30 of these were on target. He has 10 goals with six coming from inside the box, and four from outside. For the MLS 2020 season, Ruidiaz has had 27 shots, with 10 on target, scoring eight goals.
The above image shows he operates within the width of the penalty area with the majority of goals coming close to the six-yard box. His poacher like style inside the box fits into the style of play for Seattle. As mentioned on his movement in attack, his goals come from first-time finishes as a result of his positioning and movement in the box.
The following image shows a wide build-up and low cross typical of the Seattle tactics. Ruidiaz is at the back of the defender and moves in front of him as the cross comes in.
Ruidiaz gets in front of the defender and is able to finish from a tight angle with a flick towards the near post.
Catching the goalkeeper by surprise with a first-time, creative finish is a skill Ruidiaz brings to an already dangerous attack.
The first time finish is not just saved for the poacher’s goal in the box. Ruidiaz has strong awareness of other players’ positioning around him, especially the opponent’s goalkeeper and defenders.
As a pass forward in the flowing image is blocked, Ruidiaz is the fastest to react.
He can see the opponent’s goalkeeper off of his line and leaving space to aim in the left side of the goal. Whereas his preferred foot is his right, he shoots with his left foot from long range.
Able to spot an opportunity to shoot early, he also has the technical ability to finish with both feet.
Along with his first-time finishing, Ruidiaz can also show composure on the ball in front of goal. For example, below we can see Ruidiaz competing and winning the ball and from a long, high pass.
Ruidiaz holds up the ball and forces the defender to commit to a challenge. In this example, he holds onto the ball and uses his strength and control to keep the ball in his possession.
With the goalkeeper closing down Ruidiaz, he waits until the goalkeeper commits and goes down. He is able to chip the ball carefully over the goalkeeper and into the net.
Ruidiaz has been a standout centre forward in the MLS so far this season. He has the second-highest shots per 90 minutes, second only to Jozy Altidore of Toronto. Although, even with fewer shots per 90, Ruidiaz does have the highest xG per 90 with 0.91. Altidore’s xG per 90 is at 0.76.
Build Up Play
While in possession and joining the build-up play, Ruidiaz looks to keep the ball moving quickly. Seattle build their attacks up quickly where possible, looking to disorganise the defence as much as possible.
The image below shows Ruidiaz receiving the ball with his back to goal. He is aware of the wide forward on the left being in space and is able to hook the ball wide.
Again, Ruidiaz looks to draw the defender out of his defensive line. He uses a one-touch pass to keep the attack flowing.
The ball is then played out wide in this situation. We can see in the below image how Ruidiaz has ensured the attack can continue quickly. He reacts and joins the attack immediately.
Furthermore, he is finding his preferred position behind the defender, making him difficult to cover and creating options for low drilled crosses between the defensive line and the goalkeeper.
Ruidiaz will often look to find spaces in the centre channel and half-space areas to build transitions. Dropping into the middle third, he is able to link up well with the midfield and wide forwards. As visible from the heatmap below, we can see Ruidiaz is active across the pitch in the middle and final third. He is a hard-working forward who looks to move defenders across the pitch and disorganise defences.
One immediate thing to note in Ruidiaz’s play is his size. When the ball is in the air, he is unable to compete with central defenders. At 1.67m in height and around 65kg, he does not have the physical strength to challenge in the air. This is especially evident if he is unable to find space when Seattle are forced to clear the ball long from the defence.
For example, we can see below the ball has been cleared high and long. Ruidiaz is unable to make an impact or challenge the defender who comfortably wins the header.
Ruidiaz works hard for his side and looks to find space behind defenders. He benefits from his side’s high tempo play and quick transitions. An area of weakness in his game is when facing a side who operate in a low block.
As shown below, when defences have the chance to get organised it can be hard for Ruidiaz to find space.
With Seattle’s high tempo tactics, it can be hard for them to create opportunities when defences are successful at slowing them down. Ruidiaz is always looking for space to exploit and to burst into to receive a pass. If these opportunities are not available he can find it hard to create shooting chances.
Ruidiaz rates highly in comparisons with other centre-forwards in the MLS. His particular skill set suits the Seattle tactics well – fast, direct football played with the ball mostly on the floor.
However, this style of play is not transferred over to the Peruvian national side where he has struggled to make an impact. He is unable to replicate the style of play of former Bayern Munich striker Paolo Guerrero. Peru’s tactics are often based around their talisman.
With this attacking lineup, Seattle shall consider themselves real competition for any team they come up against in the MLS.