During a USL match in 2016, Sounders FC 2’s left back flicked the ball into the air and did a bicycle-kick clearance from deep in his own area. At first, S2 Head Coach Ezra Hendrickson was flabbergasted that a defender would pull off such a risky stunt, but, as it turned out, it ignited a counterattack.
That’s just Nouhou being Nouhou.
“Sometimes on the pitch, with his antics, you’ve just got to smile because he is a young kid and that’s going to happen,” Hendrickson said. “But he is willing to learn. He soaks up everything and that’s why he is successful.”
When Nouhou signed his contract with the First Team in January, it was to very little fanfare.
It was only a week before the team jetted off to preseason camp, and, with a small roster at the end of January, it appeared that one of S2’s key contributors from 2016 had earned a depth position with the MLS squad.
Within a calendar year, though, Nouhou has emerged as one of the most promising young defenders in MLS.
“It’s been a great year, my best professional year,” said Nouhou, who used teammate Jordy Delem to translate from French to English. “From playing with Cameroon to now my first final, I’m very happy.”
Nouhou signed with S2 in April 2016, coming over from his native Cameroon. A raw 18-year-old left back, Nouhou showed promise in the USL campaign, but there was very little indication that he could be a potential game-changing player on the league’s biggest stage within a year.
"That’s the role of S2 – to get the guys ready for First Team,” Hendrickson said. “That’s the trend we hope to continue. Not just sign, but become actual contributors to what the First Team is doing.”
Nouhou made his MLS debut in a reserve role at Columbus in May. He made two more appearances as a substitute before earning his first start against Orlando City SC on June 21. He went on to make 19 league appearances and emerged as a consistent starter by the end of August.
With Nouhou at left back, Head Coach Brian Schmetzer can push Joevin Jones further up the left flank, where he has been a dynamic playmaker. During the postseason, Nouhou has started all four matches – all clean sheets – while Jones has contributed two assists.
Whether Schmetzer sticks with the same lineup for MLS Cup remains to be seen. Either way, it’s been an incredible season for Nouhou, who also earned his first cap with Cameroon in November. Each step of the way, though, he’s stuck true to himself and has become a fan favorite.
“I think this guy is crazy, but we like it,” Delem smiled.