The international window is off and running, although for the contingent representing their teams from the Seattle Sounders, it was a bit of a slow start.
Injuries to Raúl Ruidíaz and Xavier Arreaga in matches just before the break started meant there were some questions that the pair would even travel to Peru and Ecuador respectively. But both made it to South America for assessment by their medical teams before Thursday’s matches.
For Nouhou and the Roldan brothers, participation wasn’t contingent on injuries, but on the decisions of their coaches as a pivotal October qualifying window gets underway.
Here’s how they fared.
Alex Roldan (El Salvador)
That’s “Captain” Alex Roldan, thank you. It has been a remarkable two years since being cut by the Sounders after the 2019 season, and now Roldan was named captain for El Salvador’s match against Panama. Roldan rewarded El Salvador with a Man of the Match performance, as La Selecta captured both their first goal of qualifying and, more importantly, their first win. The victory vaulted El Salvador into a fourth-place tie with Panama (behind on goal differential).
What’s next: At Costa Rica (Oct. 10)
Costa Rica is a far cry from their 2014 World Cup heights, when they made it to the quarterfinals, losing only after a penalty shootout to the Netherlands. Costa Rica sits in a tie for sixth (5th on goal differential), so their quest to qualify is far from over. If Roldan and El Salvador can manage a result, they could go a long way towards keeping their qualification hopes alive, and deal Costa Rica a serious blow.
Nouhou started in defense for Cameroon as they sailed to a 3-1 victory over Mozambique, featuring one of the more comical goalkeeping howlers you’re likely to see in this — or any — World Cup qualifying window. Truly, it must be seen to believed. It was Nouhou’s first appearance in a World Cup qualifier since 2017, and it was a typical Nouhou performance that Sounders fans have grown to love. He went 90 minutes.
What’s next: At Mozambique (Oct. 11)
Cameroon is second in their group, one point behind favorites Ivory Coast in CAF’s unforgiving qualifying process. Only the group winners advance, so Cameroon will certainly need to take care of business on the road to keep pace with the Ivory Coast, to whom they lost in the opening window in September.
Cristian Roldan (USA)
The USA has turned around their qualifying journey, having reached Defcon 5 halfway through the match at Honduras in the last window. Since that point, the USA has gone on to score six goals unanswered and thanks to results elsewhere, now sits atop Concacaf qualifying with eight points. Roldan did not make it off the bench in this one, which is more likely due to the USA leading comfortably in the victory over Jamaica, and two matches coming in short order.
What’s next: At Panama (Oct. 10)
Gregg Berhalter and the team said they learned from the last window about setting expectations too high, with the talk of 9-point weeks coming back to bite them squarely in the backside last month. “One game at a time” is the mantra, though they’re certainly expecting to get at least a point or better in Panama. With the need for rotation, and players with experience in Central America, it can also be expected for Roldan to see some time in this match, even if he doesn’t start.
Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador)
Ecuador did what was expected in running over perennial CONMEBOL bottom dwellers Bolivia at home. Arreaga was deemed fit enough to make the bench, good news for Sounders fans looking for him to return healthy to the squad when the window closes at the end of next week. Ecuador continues their solid qualifying campaign, sitting comfortably in a tie for third (ahead on goal differential with Uruguay), with 16 points.
What’s next: At Venezuela (Oct. 10)
CONMEBOL qualifying is arguably the toughest in the world. On the rare opportunity that a team gets to face an also-ran, they’re expected to take all three points, even on the road. Such is the case Sunday, when Ecuadaor pays a visit to Venezuela. Whether Arreaga features is likely down to his fitness and how Gustavo Alfaro wants to rotate the team with another match next Thursday.
Raúl Ruidíaz (Peru)
Ruidíaz’s status was the most up in the air, having only briefly trained with the Sounders since tweaking his hamstring in the victory over San Jose on Sept. 29. While he made the trip to Peru, it seemed unlikely he would feature in the first match, which is exactly what happened. Peru’s dim qualification hopes have brightened, with 10 points in their last five games, taking them up to 7th place with 11 points, in shouting distance of the 5th place spot which grants an intercontinental playoff series to get to the World Cup.
What’s next: At Bolivia (Oct. 10)
See: Ecuador. It may be a road match, but Peru simply must take all three points against second-from-the-bottom Bolivia to hold on to any qualification hopes. There are too many other difficult games to drop any points here. It seems unlikely that Ruidiaz takes part in this one, both due to his injury and his limited time in recent matches with Peru generally.