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Stefan Frei, Nouhou likely returning to starting lineup soon, Brian Schmetzer says

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Both could start against Minnesota on Sept. 11, Sounders coach strongly suggests.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at San Jose Earthquakes Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

It doesn’t appear that there will be much of a goalkeeping controversy.

Seattle Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer hinted at the imminent return to the starting lineup for goalkeeper Stefan Frei after a knee injury and subsequent blood clotting issue that has kept him off the field since May 12. Frei has been in training for the last couple of weeks, and previously said he hoped to make his return at the end of August.

“That’s going to be soon. That’s going to be very, very soon,” Schmetzer said during his weekly appearance on KJR. When asked for more specifics, Schmetzer offered a cryptic clarification. “How many days until our next game [11]?” Schmetzer asked rhetorically. “You might be seeing him in 11 days.”

The Sounders play Minnesota United on Sept. 11 at Lumen Field, as the team takes a break for the FIFA window. That time gives Frei a chance to get significant additional training, as well as fully integrate back into the starting lineup ahead of an important match in which the Sounders will attempt to right their pedestrian home form. At 5-3-4, the Sounders have the worst home record of any team currently in playoff position after failing to beat the Timbers at home last weekend.

Assuming Frei returns against Minnesota, that would effectively mark the end of Stefan Cleveland’s run as the starter. Cleveland took over after Frei’s injury and by all accounts did an admirable job for the Sounders, helping them remain at the top of the Western Conference in Frei’s absense. Cleveland was widely credited with keeping the Seattle in the match at Portland on August 15 before the Sounders pulled away in the second half of that game. Cleveland struggled in the home match on the weekend however, playing a part in the two goals that led to another home defeat against the Timbers.

Schmetzer was far less mysterious as to the status of Nouhou, who made his return in the MLS All-Star Game, but hasn’t played in a league match despite making the bench for the last two. Schmetzer said again it was more a matter of game state as to why he didn’t see the field against Portland.

“I was planning on bringing him on right about 60, 65 somewhere in there, but they scored in the 57th minute and we were down,” Schmetzer said. “I pulled one centerback off and we played only four at the back and tried to go for the win. It’s just the way the game played out.”

With the ongoing international break and potential absences, Schmetzer said Nouhou is highly likely to return to the starting lineup. Before his injury, Nouhou was having the best defensive season of his career, leading to the All-Star selection, even though he had not played since June.

“We’ve got two games coming up and we’ve got guys missing,” Schmetzer said. “Arreaga’s missing for Ecuador and he’s not going to come back early. I’m going to need Nouhou [for] Minnesota and then we have Santos Laguna in the Leagues Cup. He’s definitely playing in those games.”