Through two games in the World Cup, the only statistical contributions future Sounders FC forward Blaise Nkufo has made to his Swiss national team are four fouls and one yellow card.
However, his two appearances in South Africa have convinced his future teammates that he will be a valuable addition to their Major League Soccer season.
“A lot of times, foreigners come into this league and maybe their style doesn’t fit in,” veteran Sounders midfielder Peter Vagenas said Tuesday. “But he’s a bruiser, and we need some of those guys. … This league isn’t easy, but he’s the type that likes to get his nose in front of the goal. … Maybe (he’s) not going to dazzle you with magic, but at the same time he’s going to be there when you need him. And for us, I think he’s going to be exactly what the doctor ordered.”
Nkufo had a nice moment in Switzerland’s World Cup opener, making the midfield pass that led to the lone goal in his club’s opener against Spain.
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“In the first game, I thought he was amazing,” Vagenas said. “He created the first goal, obviously.”
However, things broke against both Switzerland and Nkufo in their game Monday against Chile.
In the 18th minute Nkufo received a yellow card for pulling an opponent’s shirt. In the 31st minute, Switzerland’s Valon Behrami received a red card for throwing an elbow. In the 68th minute, Nkufo was subbed out. And in the 75th minute, Chile scored the game’s only goal.
“I thought he was OK,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “… It became a more difficult game for him as a result of (the red card). Again, he did a good job of holding up the ball, allowing his team to connect off of him. A role of a player is different on every team, and his role for them is a guy who’s going to hold up and put others into play and not necessarily be the guy who gets put into play at the end himself. But that’s something we expect more from him when he gets here.”
Nkugo has been at the end of plays throughout most of his career. He has more than 200 goals for his county and club teams.
The earliest possible date for Nkufo’s MLS debut is July 15, when the Sounders visit D.C. United.
However, that could be delayed if the Swiss make a run in the knockout round.
Switzerland will conclude group play Friday with a match against Honduras, which has lost its first two games.
The Sounders went into the MLS World Cup break with a 4-6-3 record, one point out of playoff position. They return to league play at 2 p.m. Sunday, visiting the Philadelphia Union (2-7-1).
The Sounders’ opening opponent in the U.S. Open Cup will be decided tonight when the Portland Timbers of U.S. Soccer’s second division visit the Kitsap Pumas of the Premier Development League at Bremerton Memorial Stadium.
The winner will play host to the defending Open Cup-champion Sounders next week.
The Sounders will begin play in the CONCACAF Champions League next month.
“Staying healthy is important,” Schmid said of his club’s busy summer schedule.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer