Sounders notebook: Nouhou reportedly signs through 2026, Alex Roldan fueling hot start
March 8, 2023 Updated Wed., March 8, 2023 at 8:41 p.m.
TUKWILA – Nouhou signed a contract extension that will keep him with the Sounders through 2026, according to a report by Sounder at Heart, which cited an unnamed source. The club wouldn’t comment on Nouhou’s status.
The lockdown defender joined the Sounders in 2016 and played for the organization’s second-division team. He signed a first-team contract in 2017 and has blossomed to become the club’s first-choice starter at left back.
Nouhou’s former deal – which paid him a base salary of $300,000 last year, according to figures provided by the MLS Players Association – was due to expire at the end of this season with an option for 2024.
“It’s not much of a conversation,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said when asked if there’s a lot to contemplate when discussing Nouhou’s future with Craig Waibel, who was promoted to general manager and chief soccer officer last fall.
Waibel has about 10 players whose guaranteed contracts expire at the end of this season, some have options for the 2024 season. Waibel said with a talented roster like the current Sounders list, his staff can be picky when considering moves and aren’t in a rush with everyone healthy.
Since taking the position in November, Waibel has added forward Heber and extended the contracts of forward Jordan Morris and midfielders Cristian Roldan and Danny Leyva.
Nouhou, 25, was thought to be an intriguing commodity after his performance in the FIFA men’s World Cup in Qatar last winter. He played the full 90 minutes in Cameroon’s three group-stage matches, but the Indomitable Lions didn’t advance to the knockout rounds.
The highlight for Nouhou was beating Brazil 1-0. The hard-fought shutout, sans Neymar, ended a 17-game unbeaten streak for Brazil in World Cup group stage competitions.
Nouhou said he’s no longer focused on garnering a loan agreement with a European club. “I’m happy here,” he told the Seattle Times in January.
And is playing like it to open the MLS season.
The Sounders (2-0) lead the league in scoring with six goals after two shutout wins. In last weekend’s 2-0 result against Real Salt Lake at Lumen Field, Nouhou had 86 touches and completed 89.5% of his passes (51 of 57).
Seattle travels to play FC Cincinnati (1-0-1) on Saturday.
Sounders defender Alex Roldan has been ferocious to open MLS play. But the motivation has little to do with Egyptian side Al Ahly advancing in the FIFA men’s Club World Cup due to a ball deflection off Roldan’s foot that scored the game’s only goal.
“Once we finished that and we were on our way back to Seattle, we kind of had to move past it,” Roldan said of the 1-0 loss in Morocco. “It’s the only way to continue.”
Roldan moved on by being an undercurrent to the Sounders’ early success in a tweaked position where he’s higher up the field than a standard right fullback. Against RSL, it helped him tally two assists in the shutout and earn a spot on MLS’s Matchday 2 Team of the Matchday.
Although Roldan had a confession regarding one of the assists.
“It wasn’t necessarily a pass directed toward him,” Roldan said of Heber kneeling to knock a left-footed shot into goal in the 58th minute. “I took a shot and luckily, he was in the right spot at the right time to put it in for the second goal.”
Bad news first
Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan threw a wet blanket on his team’s hot start.
It took the team five matches to amass six goals to open last season, an omen to the Sounders missing the postseason for the first time in 14 years. The club has six after two matches this year.
Roldan noted there should be more and made sure assistant coach Andy Rose included those errant runs to improve tactics.
“You can’t just show good clips because then we’re going to think too highly of ourselves. You have to show what we can do to get better,” Roldan said of the talk with Rose. “We played well but there are chances that we missed. Things that we needed to clean up.”
A pair of goals Roldan wished would’ve buried into the net were in the 4-0 win against Colorado. Morris’ header in the 45th minute was a second effort after a pretty cross from Nico Lodeiro where the shot was blocked. Cristian’s brother Alex had a left-footed screamer in the fourth minute against Colorado.
“That would’ve been nice for really early in the season,” Cristian said.
The full Sounders roster was part of training Tuesday at Starfire Sports in Tukwila. Players like forward Raul Ruidiaz (hamstring) and midfielder Obed Vargas (quad) are fully healthy and now in the mix fighting for minutes creating the predicament Schmetzer likes – too many good choices.
Vargas could find it harder than Ruidiaz to break back into the starting lineup. Leyva and Josh Atencio receive praise for their training while Lodeiro, Albert Rusnak and Joao Paulo are a relief in the middle after last season’s struggles with the latter out due to a knee injury.
“A lot of guys would say games are won or lost in the midfield,” Schmetzer said. “We have an advantage over a lot of teams in that area, but they have to do the work. We’ll have to have some rotations but, right now, those three are playing at a high level.”
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