In a normal year, the main concern for Seattle Sounders fans during the fall international break is whether their international contingent returns from duty none the worse for wear, as the club team prepares for a playoff push. The switch to a November World Cup — and the regular season that shall not be named — rendered that worry moot, so fans can mostly content themselves with hoping for solid individual moments, team success, and maybe a star turn or two.
There are plenty of opportunities for some magical moments for the Sounders, having sent four players to Qatar for the 2022 edition of the World Cup. The first round ended Thursday, and things ramp up again with the second round of games Friday, and the Sounders will again be well-represented on Black Friday. Here’s how they fared in round one.
Xavier Arreaga, Ecuador
Arreaga’s Ecuador kicked off the opening of the 2022 World Cup, taking on host country Qatar on Sunday. Host countries typically do well in the competition, at least managing to advance to the knockout rounds with the obvious home field advantage. Still talent generally wins out, and Ecuador has a good squad as they cruised to a 2-0 victory. Sounders fans got a glimpse of Arreaga during the match, as he was potentially set to be an injury replacement, for Ángelo Preciado, but his number wasn’t called.
Arreaga was again on the bench in Ecuador’s second match against Netherlands. He did not play in a 1-1 tie.
What’s next: Tuesday (Nov. 29) vs Senegal. Ecuador will be assured of advancement if they can at least get a point, but would be eliminated with a loss. They’ll need a win coupled with a seemingly improbable Netherlands loss to Qatar in order to win the group. Arreaga has generally been a bit player in Ecuador’s World Cup qualifying plans, so whether he sees time is probably up to the health of the players ahead of him.
Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan, USA
Two names that elicit the most groans from the portion of the USA fanbase not residing in the Pacific Northwest, Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan both made the final roster for Gregg Berhalter’s team. Both have contributed in their own ways, but Morris was always the more likely to see time on the field. And he made his World Cup debut in 88’ with the USA looking for a go-ahead goal. Morris had a handful of touches with the ball and looked fine, but didn’t impact the match. As for the USA, a silly penalty conceded lost them two valuable points that could have put them in pole position to advance.
What’s next: Today (Nov. 25) vs England. The USA fanbase was predictably apoplectic after the draw against Wales, and considering the thrashing England put on Iran, there is probably some reason for concern. Thanks to Wales’ loss to Iran, however, the USA’s hopes will remain alive no matter what happens against Engalnd. Neither Morris nor Roldan is likely to start, and again the former would be more likely than the latter to see the field, particularly if the USA is playing from behind late.
The most likely of the Sounders international contingent to see time at the World Cup indeed got the most run in the first round of games. Nouhou started and went the full 90+ for Cameroon as they tried to break their long World Cup losing streak against Switzerland. For much of the first half, Cameroon looked more likely to score. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to put away any of their chances and were undone by a goal from a Cameroonian native in a narrow 1-0 defeat. Nouhou was his usual defensive stalwart self, but wasn’t particularly impactful in attack.
What’s next: Monday (Nov. 28) vs Serbia. Cameroon’s solid showing should give them confidence they can pull off a result against Serbia, and they’ll likely need a win to harbor any chances of advancing given they’ll take on a rampant Brazil in the group stage finale. Unless there is an injury or illness, Nouhou’s starting spot seems all but assured for the remainder of the tournament, so Sounders fans will get to see Nouhou Choo-choo chugging along for at least 180 more minutes, plus 38 minutes of stoppage time, give or take.