Nouhou shines in first MLS start, channels best of left back Joevin Jones

Nouhou vs. Orlando City 2017-06-21

SEATTLE — Although Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw against Orlando City did not finish exactly as the Seattle Sounders had hoped, one positive takeaway was the performance of left back Nouhou, who made his MLS regular-season starting debut.

Nouhou had made his first three appearances of the season in the previous three games before finally earning the start against Orlando City. Normal left back starter Joevin Jones began on the bench likely due to rest given how much he has played recently for club and country, and his replacement did a respectable job in his stead.

“He played well, you saw what he brings,” head coach Brian Schmetzer said of Nouhou’s shift. “Nouhou is raw: He’s raw power, raw energy, raw speed.”

Nouhou is just 19 years old, and the native Cameroonian has continued to improve since signing with the first team from S2 this past offseason. He has grown tremendously from watching Jones play and learning from him how to operate in Schmetzer’s 4-2-3-1 formation.

“He’s a very gifted kid, and we’re very lucky to have him,” said Cristian Roldan, who started opposite Nouhou at right back on Wednesday. “[Nouhou and Jones are] somewhat similar. Nouhou is a defender first. He wins his 1-v-1 battles first. Joevin, you can tell that he wants to get forward, he wants to get on the ball a little more, but you can see also how good Nouhou is in possession and how he takes care of the ball.”

Nouhou was effective on both ends of the field against Orlando City, completing 58 passes with 86 percent accuracy, as well as recording three tackles, two clearances and an interception. When Jones checked into the match in the second half, he took over at left wing, playing above Nouhou and combining well, their two skill sets complementing each other nicely.

“Hopefully they can learn from each other and keep pushing each other,” goalkeeper Stefan Frei said of Nouhou and Jones. “Sometimes it’s good that guys have similar skills…to push each other to collectively get better.”

Added Schmetzer: “They’re a little bit similar. I think Joevin has a little more savvy to his game… but their characteristics are similar: good left foot, good speed, so it helps you can plug them and play them.”

Sounders General Manager and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey said this past offseason how excited he was about Nouhou and his development and his potential impact with the first team, and Nouhou’s initial play has backed up that enthusiasm.

“He has a ton of growth potential,” Roldan said of Nouhou. “He’s one for the future for sure.”

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