Club World Cup: Seattle Sounders out after one game in Morocco

The first MLS team to play in the Club World Cup is heading home from the FIFA tournament after one game.

Mohamad Afsha scored in the 88th minute as Egyptian club Al Ahly edged the Seattle Sounders, 1-0, on Saturday to book a Club World Cup semifinal date with Real Madrid on Wednesday in the Moroccan capital of Rabat.
Afsha's volley from outside the area deflected off Seattle’s Alex Roldan and found its way into the back of the net.
Saturday's game marked the return of Brazilian midfielder Joao Paulo, who came on in the 68th minute for his first appearance since he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in Seattle’s 3-0 win over UNAM last May to clinch the Concacaf Champions League title.

Jackson Ragen and Josh Atencio, both products of the Sounders' academy program, were the only starters on Saturday who didn't start in the win over Pumas.

The Sounders faced fitness questions coming into this game as they are in the midst of preseason, 118 days removed from its last competitive game. On the other hand, Al Ahly is undefeated since August 2022 and in first place in the Egyptian Premier league through 15 games played. 

Both teams spent the game’s first few minutes testing out the opposition and growing into the game. The Sounders had the better chances in the first half as club captain Nicolas Lodiero and fellow midfielder Albert Rusnak shot wide of the goal. Also, forward Jordan Morris failed to connect on a header from one of the four corner kicks the Sounders had in the first half, during which Al Ahly had no shots on goal.

In the second half, after Al Ahly's first shot of the game went wide, Atencio’s 27-yard shot in the 51st minute bounced straight to Ahly goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy, who made the first of his two easy saves.

As the game looked headed to overtime, the Sounders’ young midfielder Daniel Leyva, who had replaced Cristian Roldan only a few minutes earlier, lost the ball in midfield. The initial shot by Afsha, a 64th-minute sub, hit the crossbar. Joao Paulo's headed clearance sent the ball back to Afsha, whose second attempt took the deflection that sent the ball past keeper Stefan Frei.

“I thought the game was going OK," Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said. “We were trying to get through to the end of the game. Maybe we sneak a goal. Had extra time come, we would’ve made some more changes. But I felt the game was OK.”
The Sounders will return home — there is no longer a fifth-place game — to prepare for their season-opener against the Colorado Rapids on Feb. 26.

"The guys are pretty determined," Schmetzer said. "They understand that things happen. They do not want this to put a damper on the regular season. We have the next objective."

The Sounders received $1 million in prize money for their appearance at the Club World Cup. The winner receives $5 million; runner-up $4 million; third place $2.5 milllion; fourth place $2. million.

• Earlier, teenager Musab Al Juwayr converted to give Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal a 5-3 shootout win over CAF Champions League winner Wydad Casablanca after their match  ended 1-1. Al Hilal faces Brazil's Flamengo in the other semifinal.

Feb. 4 in Tangiers
Seattle Sounders 0 Al Ahly 1. Goal: Afsha 88.
Seattle Sounders -- Frei; A.Roldan, Yeimar, Ragen (Montero 90+1), Nouhou; Atencio (Joao Paulo 68), Rusnak (Héber 90+1), C.Roldan (Leyva 84), Lodeiro, Morris; Ruidíaz
Al Ahly -- El Shenawy; Hany, Metwaly, Abdelmonem, Maaloul; Dieng, Tau (Rabia 90+3), Fathi (Afsha 64), El Soleya, Mohamed (Abdelkader 63); Kahraba (Sherif 63)
Referee: Anthony Taylor. Assistants: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn. Fourth Official: Ning Ma. VAR: Jerome Brisard
Att.: 30,589.

Mike Fiechtner/Sounders FC Communications

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