Seattle Sounders lineup vs. Al Ahly: João Paulo makes bench for Club World Cup opener

Joao Paulo SEA Club World Cup

The first-ever FIFA Club World Cup game for a Major League Soccer team will involve a nearly-full-strength lineup.

Full lineup

Seattle Sounders FC, for their Second Round matchup against Egyptian powerhouse Al Ahly, will likely utilize their typical 4-2-3-1 formation on Saturday at Ibn Batouta Stadium in Tangier, Morocco (12 pm ET | FS2, FOX Deportes).

For the reigning and historic Concacaf Champions League winners, the below group is listed left to right.

  • Goalkeeper: Stefan Frei
  • Defenders: Nouhou, Jackson Ragen, Yeimar, Alex Roldan
  • Midfielders: Josh Atencio, Albert Rusnák, Nicolás Lodeiro
  • Forwards: Jordan Morris, Raúl Ruidíaz, Cristian Roldan

Lineup keys

Head coach Brian Schmetzer deployed a couple of lineup surprises, chief among them being Jackson Ragen starting at center back over Xavier Arreaga. With João Paulo coming off a torn ACL suffered in last year's CCL triumph over Liga MX's Pumas UNAM, homegrown midfielder Josh Atencio starts alongside Albert Rusnák as the deepest midfielders.

Since Seattle are coming off a month-long preseason camp, substitutes might be of increased importance as players reach full fitness before a Feb. 26 MLS opener vs. the Colorado Rapids (8 pm ET | MLS Season Pass, FS1). Schmetzer has said João Paulo will get minutes, while Héber could debut at striker following his trade acquisition from NYCFC.

Win or go home

The Sounders face a single-elimination situation in terms of results:

  • Win: Play a Semifinal on Feb. 8 vs. UEFA Champions League winners Real Madrid, be guaranteed three Club World Cup games
  • Lose: Go home and play just one Club World Cup game

Al Ahly, who qualified as runners-up in the African Champions League, are also eliminated in they lose. But the Egyptian Premier League leaders might have an advantage, sitting undefeated through 15 domestic games and beating New Zealand’s Auckland City 3-0 on Wednesday in Round One at the Club World Cup.

The bottom line

As Opta noted, 14 of the 16 players that appeared for Seattle in the second leg of last year’s CCL Final are available, including nine of the same starters. There’s roster consistency and quality from one of MLS’s most successful clubs, one that’s fully capable of winning.