TUKWILA, Wash. – Characterizing the 20-year-old’s pair of mistakes that led to Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Sporting Kansas City as the folly of youth, Sounders head coach Brain Schmetzer emphasized at training Wednesday that left back Nouhou Tolo would need to learn from his errors to continue to grow as a player.
Both of KC’s goals were effectivy the result of Nouhou’s errors Sunday. First, Johnny Russell forced Nouhou into a risky slide tackle just inside the penalty area, drawing a foul and setting up an Ilie Sanchez penalty kick in the 34th minute. In the 78th minute, Nouhou failed to hustle back after an attacking run took him downfield and was caught on a counter by SKC right back Jimmy Medranda, who fed Graham Zusi in behind Seattle’s back line for a goal that cost the Sounders two points on the road.
Schmetzer criticized the failures Wednesday as mental ones, rather than physical errors.
“That’s up here,” Schmetzer said, pointing to his head. “(Nouhou)’s got to learn. These are the growing pains you get with young players in any position. Young players need to feel their way through. They’re put in circumstances that are not easy. He struggled Sunday. The point is that he has to learn from this game and push forward. The trap will be if he doesn’t learn and continues, then maybe his career is not as long as he’d hope. If he learns from this and can push past it then everybody will be happy.”
Both Nouhou and 27-year-old Waylon Francis have made starts at left back for Seattle this season, but neither has fully claimed the No. 1 spot on the depth chart yet with inconsistent play. The revelation Sunday that Francis had suffered a hamstring strain and would be unavailable, however, opened a window for the young Cameroonian that he failed to exploit.
Still, Schmetzer felt his squad was capable of self-correction and that the coaching staff would not be sugar-coating anything for the players.
“It’s reality,” Schmetzer. “We show the film. We hold the players accountable. They have to hold themselves accountable. There was good conversation right after the game. It’s their team. I love it. It means I don’t have to talk as much. Let them solve it. We’re not afraid to have the kid learn. He has to learn. And then I have the beauty of having Djimi Traore come and show him individual film and boost him up.”
With Francis perhaps out another week, there may be a chance for Nouhou to atone at home against Minnesota United this Sunday. A few more mistakes, though, and the left back may find himself left out when Schmetzer puts together his team sheet.