It’s hard to imagine the first match-day of the November international match window going much better than it did for the Seattle Sounders.
Sure, playing time for a couple of the Sounders participating with their national teams wasn’t likely what they would have wanted, but the results on the field by and large were. If the goal is getting to the World Cup, qualifying is obviously the first step, and several teams took significant moves towards booking their ticket to Qatar next fall.
It’s no longer early in qualifying: Concacaf officially reached the halfway point, Conmebol is nearing the three-quarter turn and African qualifying has just one more group stage match before the group winners face off in head-to-head matches that will determine which teams get the five spots in Qatar.
So it’s all to play for, as the second match day of the November plays out over the next five days.
Here’s how the Sounders who are abroad fared:
Alex Roldan (El Salvador): 1-1 Draw vs. Jamaica
The now-entrenched captain of the El Salvador national team did it again. Alex Roldan is likely approaching cult hero status in El Salvador, and what a meteoric rise it’s been. Staring down the barrel of a 1-0 home defeat to Jamaica which would have likely ended any realistic hopes of challenging for qualification, Roldan came up big in the 90the minute, skying high into the air to power a cross past goalkeeper Andre Blake and rescuing a draw for La Selecta.
CAPTAIN @Alex_Roldan8 90’ GOAL!!— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) November 13, 2021
A home draw to a team also at the bottom of the table is hardly the best-case scenario, but a loss would have left El Salvador on five points and in 7th place in qualifying, likely too big of a mountain to climb.
What’s next: At Panama (Nov. 16.)
If the match against Jamaica wasn’t last-chance saloon, the upcoming road trip to Panama surely is. Panama sits in the intercontinental playoff spot with 11 points, so if El Salvador has any hopes of making things interesting, they’ll need a result in that match. And if there’s anyone who is penned into the starting lineup, it’s Alex Roldan.
Nouhou (Cameroon): 4-0 win at Malawi
Cameroon is in a dogfight with Ivory Coast for the top spot in the group, and needed a win to keep pace. They got that and then some, routing Malawi 4-0 thanks to an early red card and converted penalty, which removed much doubt from this match. Nouhou again got the start and played 90 minutes, and appears to have cemented his presence in the Cameroonian lineup.
What’s next: vs. Ivory Coast (Nov. 16.)
This one is for all the marbles. No matter the result of today’s Ivory Coast match, Cameroon will control their own destiny to reach the final phase of CAF qualifying. Win and they advance; lose and they’ll be out. An Ivory Coast loss or draw to Mozambique — unlikely as it may be — would open up the possibility of a draw sending Cameroon through. Nouhou has started the last three matches for Cameroon — all victories — and would seem to be in line to start what would be the biggest match of his international career.
Yeimar Gomez Andrade (Colombia): 1-0 Loss at Brazil
It was always unlikely that Yeimar was going to see time in his first international call-up with Colombia — at Brazil no less — but the experience of being with the team was no doubt a valuable one. Also unlikely was Colombia going to Corinthians and getting a result, though the outcome was in doubt until late, when a 72th minute goal from Lucas Paquetá secured the victory for Brazil. The loss leaves Colombia in 5th place — and thus in qualification position via the intercontinental playoff — with 16 points.
What’s next: Vs. Paraguay (Nov. 16)
Colombia will like their chances to rebound against Paraguay at home, and given the logjam in the middle of the CONMEBOL table (four points separates fourth from ninth), Colombia would do well to take advantage of the home match. Yeimar is probably again unlikely to see much time in such a high-stakes match, though could come off the bench should Colombia be in a position to need to lock down the game late.
Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador): 1-0 win vs. Venezuela
Ecuador is in a much better position in Conmebol after grinding out a 1-0 victory at home versus Venezuela. Arreaga, whose playing time with Ecuador is inconsistent, to say the least, didn’t see the field in this match. Still, he is probably feeling pretty good about his — and Ecuador’s — qualification prospects as they sit comfortably in third place in Conmebol with 20 points, four points ahead of the fourth-place logjam.
What’s next: At Chile (Nov. 16)
Still, things could get a lot less comfortable should Ecuador lose their next match, which is certainly a distinct possibility as they travel to fourth-place Chile on Tuesday. A loss would be far from fatal but would bring Chile in a position to surpass them as South America reaches the final stretch. Suffice it to say, a draw or win would go a long way toward clinching qualification. There is a decent chance that Arreaga could see some time, as he has featured late in matches when Ecuador has tried to close out a result.
Cristian Roldan (USA): Dos a Cero
Much like Arreaga, Roldan might be disappointed he didn’t get into such a high-profile match, but he’s surely pleased with the result, as the USA rode a stellar second-half performance to a 2-0 victory over arch-rival Mexico. It was a massive win, not only for the confidence of the incredibly young USA side, but in the standings, as the USA now sits at the top of Concacaf with 14 points and goal-difference of +7. While the ghosts of 2017 haven’t yet been exorcised, avenging the home loss to El Tri from that cycle goes a long way towards doing so. Still, only qualification will do.
What’s next: At Jamaica (Nov. 16)
The USA is certainly feeling themselves right now, but a loss to Jamaica on Tuesday could bring them right back down to earth. While the USA has had success playing at Jamaica in qualifying, nothing is guaranteed, and the USA has looked far from dominant on the road thus far in this cycle. Roldan’s role in this match could be an interesting one to watch, as Weston McKennie is suspended for yellow-card accumulation. However, Gregg Berhalter is talking about bringing in reinforcements (Miles Robinson will also be out due to a late red card against Mexico), so it’s possible that Roldan could be watching for the bench. Still Berhalter has said he trusts Roldan and values what he brings, and a road match in Jamaica could be a place where Roldan’s skill set could prove useful.