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Sports >  Seattle Sounders

Undefeated Sounders to get added boost with return of Nouhou

UPDATED: Thu., July 15, 2021

Seattle Sounders defender Nouhou drives against Atlanta United during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Sunday, May 23, 2021, in Seattle.  (Associated Press)
Seattle Sounders defender Nouhou drives against Atlanta United during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Sunday, May 23, 2021, in Seattle. (Associated Press)
By Jayda Evans Seattle Times

TUKWILA, Wash. – Sounders center back Nouhou is expected to travel with the club for its road match Sunday against Minnesota United.

Nouhou hasn’t appeared in a MLS match since a goalless draw against Austin FC in May. He played 43 minutes for his Cameroon national team during the international break in June and suffered an adductor injury while with the club.

MLS will conclude a weeklong hiatus for international play this weekend, which gave Nouhou more time to heal. Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer hoped the same would work for center back Shane O’Neill, who has a hip flexor injury and missed the July 7 win against Houston, but O’Neill will not make the trip to Minnesota and could be out longer.

“He reminds me of (former Sounders defender) Zach Scott,” Schmetzer said Wednesday of O’Neill. “He could probably play now if I asked him to. He could play through some injuries, but it’s probably safer for him to just get this healed up and go again.

“(But) ask me after the next three games, and we might have to bring him back early, you never know.”

O’Neill was on the training field at Starfire Sports but Nouhou wasn’t. It’s part of an altered approach the club is taking to help field competitive rosters for matches despite having seven players injured and two playing for national teams in the Gold Cup tournament.

Schmetzer had players from USL side Tacoma Defiance and the Sounders’ U-17 team participate in training Wednesday.

“At this stage, if you don’t see a player out here practicing, it’s probably just because we cannot be reckless,” Schmetzer said. “We have to be very careful. If they need a ‘pro day,’ I’m going to give them a pro day.”

Stargazing

The Sounders are off to a MLS-record 13-match unbeaten streak to open the season. The mark also is the club’s longest stretch without a loss at any point in a schedule.

Seattle (8-0-5) sits atop the Supporters’ Shield race. Striker Raul Ruidiaz is tied for most goals scored (10) and defender Yeimar Gomez Andrade leads in interceptions (39). The figures indicate the Sounders should have a few players named to the league’s All-Star team.

MLS All-Star voting runs through Wednesday. Ballots from fans, league players and media will be weighted evenly to select 12 players for the Aug. 25 match against the Liga MX All-Stars at Los Angeles FC’s Banc of California Stadium.

LAFC coach Bob Bradley will lead the league’s All-Star squad and will pick 12 additional players.

MLS commissioner Don Garber will select the final two players for the 26-man roster.

“We’re all focused on our club, first,” Sounders wingback Brad Smith said of the locker room’s opinion on being All-Stars. “It’s a good accolade and great for the players to get that, but we’re focused here. This is our team, and we want to do well for Seattle, first.”

Schmetzer was conflicted in sharing his views about the return of the All-Star match. Last season’s was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coach wants his team honored, stating: “My players’ performances speak for themselves. If they don’t know quality, then maybe they shouldn’t be voting.”

But given the quality players like midfielders Joao Paulo and Cristian Roldan have shown, it could mean more absences for an already strained roster due to injuries/international call-ups. The Sounders play six matches in August, including a Leagues Cup matchup against Tigres UANL.

“You guys go vote for everybody else,” Schmetzer quipped after thinking of missing more players.

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