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International Roundup: Misters Worldwide

The boys are (coming) back [to] town!

Peru Training Session Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images

You may have heard that the Seattle Sounders had a handful of players out on international duty during the March 20-28 FIFA window. The six Sounders that joined their assorted national teams played in a mix of friendlies and competitive matches with little in the way of success.

Nouhou and Cameroon played a home-and-away series against Namibia in Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, and Alex Roldan joined up with El Salvador for Concacaf Nations League games, including a meeting with the USMNT. Xavier Arreaga and Ecuador played a pair of friendlies against Australia, while Raúl Ruidíaz and the Peru national team traveled to Spain for friendlies against Germany and Morocco. Rounding out the group on international duty were Reed Baker-Whiting and Obed Vargas, who linked up with the USYNT U-19 and U-20 teams, respectively, as the US prepares for the U-20 World Cup later this year.

It’s probably best to get the bad news out of the way first, rather than beating around the bush. After playing the full 90 minutes in a 1-0 loss to Honduras on March 22, Alex Roldan only played the opening 45 minutes against the USMNT for El Salvador. Roldan was forced to come out at halftime in their second 1-0 loss of the window with what has been described as some muscle tightness.

There’s not been much in the way of updates yet on the severity of the injury, but it seems unlikely that Alex Roldan is able to return to his starting spot at right back for this weekend’s game against the LA Galaxy. Fortunately, the rest of the group seems to have come out of the window healthy.

Nouhou had arguably the busiest window, playing 180 minutes in Cameroon’s 1-1 home draw and 2-1 road loss against Namibia. Cameroon were arguably the dominant side in both matches from a statistical approach, although that’s at least in part due to game states as Namibia opened the scoring in both games and forced Cameroon to chase. Nouhou was heavily involved in the 1-1 draw as Cameroon pushed for the equalizer and a potential winner at home, accumulating 91 touches and 13 passes into the final third while his side held 70% of possession and outshot their opponents 18-6. After a 72nd minute equalizer, Cameroon were forced to settle for the single point.

In Cameroon’s 2-1 loss in the second game of the window, Nouhou was largely fine but was mostly a passenger as Cameroon’s only joy came through a stoppage-time consolation goal. While Nouhou was in the general area on both of Namibia’s goals, it’s hard to rest any of the blame for either of them. Cameroon and Namibia both seem likely to advance from their group. While Kenya was drawn into their group the nation is ineligible to participate, meaning that Burundi is the final team in what is now a three-team group. Cameroon and Namibia have both played three of their four qualifiers and have one game against Burundi remaining, with Burundi sitting in third place in the group with only one point.

Friendly fun

Raúl Ruidíaz, still working his way back to form and full match fitness had a largely forgettable window with Peru. After a 45-minute appearance in a 2-0 loss to Germany in which Ruidíaz had a total of 4 touches, 0 shots, lost both of his duels, and completed 3 of 4 passes that earned him a halftime substitution, he didn’t appear in Peru’s 0-0 draw with Morocco. The plus-side, as noted above, is that Ruidíaz did NOT pick up a muscle injury and should be good to go in some capacity against the Galaxy. A week of high-level training and possibly a desire to put those 45 minutes against Germany behind him should only help propel him along as he returns to Seattle.

Xavier Arreaga and Ecuador split their pair of games against Australia. The two games were both played in Australia, and the first of the two went to the hosts as they beat Ecuador 3-1. Arreaga subbed into the game in the 68th minute, replacing right back Angelo Preciado with the side already trailing 2-1. About 15 minutes later Arreaga unsuccessfully attempted to step up and pressure the ball near midfield on the wing. The ensuing pass pulled centerback Félix Torres into no man’s land and moments later 18-year-old Garang Kuol was tapping the ball in from the doorstep to give Australia a 3-1 victory.

In the second game against Australia, Arreaga once again subbed in for Preciado at RB, this time entering in the 77th minute. With Ecuador leading 2-1, the game had already grown chippy by the time Arreaga entered as Ecuador worked to hold onto their lead. Arreaga made a few solid tackles and interceptions or clearances to help keep the lead, but did receive a yellow for lunging in to poke a ball away from an attacker near the penalty area.

Details from the U-19 and U-20 camps are a little hard to come by. Down in Argentina, the U-19s played a pair of friendlies — one against Argentina U-17s and one against Racing Club. The USYNT won both games, beating the Argentina youth side 3-1 and Racing Club’s youth side 2-0. Baker-Whiting started against Argentina, but not against Racing. The federation didn’t provide information on substitutions or any sort of play-by-play.

The U-20 group traveled to Marbella, Spain to play three friendlies. The first was a 4-0 loss to the France U-20s, in which Obed Vargas subbed on just before the hour mark immediately after France’s second goal. Vargas and the rest of the US side struggled to get much of a grip on the game as France only continued to pick up steam from there. Vargas started the second game against the England U-20s, but subbed off at half with the US trailing 2-1. The US managed to level the score in the 51st minute, but England pulled away three minutes later and went on to win 4-2. The final game of the window for the U-20s was a scoreless draw with Serbia’s U-21 side, and Vargas came on at halftime in that one. It’s hard to take much away from the window for Vargas without video to watch, but it seems like a good sign for his potential involvement in the U-20 World Cup (assuming there is one) after he appeared in all three games.

The internationals are still trickling in, so it’s unclear how much involvement any of them will have on the weekend, but it’s good to have them all back home!

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