Nouhou has had a stellar year on the world stage, and the Sounders may not be able to keep him around for long

TUKWILA – A reminder, shots on goal are not goals.

Still, there was some satisfaction at one point in Wednesday’s penalty shootout between Sounders FC and the San Jose Quakes – Nouhou finishing his attempt. The defender was ninth in Seattle’s list of takers, using a mini run to power a left-footed low shot past Quakes goaltender Matt Bersano.

Bersano got the starting score to advance San Jose to the US Open Cup Round of 16. But Nouhou eventually put the ball in the back of the net for the first team.

A certifiable objective of Nouhou is the “what next?” answer to the most decorative year of his career. The Cameroon international helped his country finish third in the Africa Cup of Nations last winter, qualify for the Qatar World Cup earlier this spring and helped the Sounders become the MLS first team to win the CONCACAF Champions League title this month.

“As a player I have to be more consistent and improve my crosses and score the goal because all the big players now, they just want to score,” Nouhou said. “When you score it’s good. The first thing is defense, but I have to score goals.

Nouhou’s first and only professional goal was in 2017 when he played for the club’s second division side. The 24-year-old often thinks back to those early years when he was under the close tutelage of former Sounders assistants Djimi Traore, Gonzalo Pineda and Ezra Hendrickson.

The trio helped the French-speaker learn English, adapt to the MLS style of play and refine his career path. Nouhou broke into the Sounders’ starting lineup in 2018 – becoming affectionately associated with a train due to his speed on the left flank – and was an MLS All-Star in 2021, his first as a centre-back.

“Off the pitch I’m a bit different, I’m a bit shy,” Nouhou said. “I just want to be an example for the next generation, that’s why on the pitch I want to be 100%, racing for the fans (and hearing from the fans) gives me more power, so sometimes I laugh because it’s is good .”

This year, Nouhou’s talents shined on the world stage by knocking out Egyptian and Liverpool star Mohamad Salah in the AFCON semi-finals and being named in the CCL Best XI team. Nouhou had 19 clearances, seven interceptions and one assist in the tournament.

“I don’t know how long we can keep someone like Nouhou,” said Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei. “He showed that maturity. Facing some of the best players in the world and not just silencing them but frustrating them, like Mo Salah, is a real testament. You must take note.

Nouhou said playing in the English Premier League was one of his dreams. Garth Lagerwey, Sounders chief executive and chairman of football, has hinted that the left-back on loan anywhere is a possibility, but the next transfer window won’t open until July.

Everything so far only furthers Nouhou’s CV. And there couldn’t be a better time for the Cameroonian to help the Sounders bag goals than Sunday’s return to MLS competition with a clash against Minnesota at Lumen.

During a cinema session on Friday, Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer showed his team a slide of their standings in the MLS standings and the players could clearly see that the only bright spot was that there were 27 games left. .

Whether at home (1-2-0) or away (1-3-1), the Sounders are bad. They conceded 13 goals, the unfavorable results were with and without first-choice starters and even though they had won both games in hand due to the CCL tournament schedule, the 13 possible total points – instead of the current seven – wouldn’t qualify them for the playoffs if the playoffs were to start on Sunday.

“We know we’re not where we want to be,” Sounders winger Jordan Morris said. “We have a few games going on that we have to win, that’s for sure. We know there is a lot of season left to play and we know we are better than where we are. We have a huge focus on the Champions League and that has had an effect on our position as well, but we’re really confident as a team that we’re going to move up the ranks as the season progresses and put ourselves in a good position. . position.”

Minnesota (4-4-2) would make the cut as the seventh and final team in the Western Conference. Their arrival comes at a perfect time as the Loons have been a kicker for the Sounders since joining the league in 2017.

A win over Minnesota was an impressive season opener and palate cleanser after a loss at Portland last season. In 2020, the Loons fell victim to a historic playoff victory. In 2019, a win over Minnesota helped clinch home-court advantage in the playoffs and in 2018 ended a four-game winless skid to open the season.

But when it comes to that first goal, Nouhou doesn’t care about the opponent or the location. So whatever the situation, he will seek his luck.

“I want, I have to, I have to score,” he said. “I know it’s going to be (wild) when I do it for Seattle, especially at home. So I have to. For me, I have to.

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