UPDATE: João Paulo has been ruled out for the year after the Sounders confirmed that he tore his ACL. The primary transfer window closed on Wednesday, almost certainly meaning the Sounders will not be able to get any roster relief and wouldn’t be able to sign anyone new until the summer transfer window opens, anyway.
The Seattle Sounders faced a difficult task last night as they hosted Pumas UNAM in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final, and though they won, their task was made all the more difficult early in the first half when two key players left the game due to injuries. First it was Nouhou who had to be subbed off in the 11th minute after going down a couple of times. Then, just before the half-hour mark, João Paulo had a collision on the sideline and went down in a heap. While Nouhou was able to leave the field under his own strength, JP was stretchered straight to the locker rooms.
João Paulo exited the locker room for the second half, but did so on crutches and with his right leg heavily wrapped and iced.
In his post-game press conference, coach Brian Schmetzer gave an update on the two players. Nouhou seems likely to not miss much time, if any, as Schmetzer described his injury as a “thigh contusion.” While it was worrying when he went down and had to be subbed out, the fact that he was able to walk on his own and was fully able to participate in celebrations does seem to align with the coach’s assessment. There was no such luck with João Paulo.
According to Schmetzer, JP’s injury appears to be a possible ACL tear. If that is indeed the case, the Sounders will likely be without one of their best players and a 2021 league MVP contender for the rest of the season. Even with a speedy recovery, it’s unlikely that he would be able to return to full fitness in time to finish out the season. With his injury, Brian Schmetzer and his staff will have a major question to answer with a number of possible solutions. We could see more of the Albert Rusnák-Obed Vargas pairing in midfield, as well as players like Josh Atencio and Danny Leyva seeing increased minutes there, or potentially Cristian Roldan could move back to the double-pivot from his spot on the wing. Moving Roldan would necessitate either more minutes going to less experienced players — Leo Chu, once he’s back from his injury, would be an option for wing minutes, as would Sam Adeniran — or playing Kelyn Rowe or someone else in that spot.
For now we’ll just have to wait and see how Schmetzer and his staff move forward. Get well soon, JP.