MLS Spotlight: Seattle a perfect fit for Alonso

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By JOSÉ M. ROMERO

Osvaldo Alonso honestly felt that this could be the year for his Seattle Sounders.

He said as much late last week, before the Sounders were blasted 3-0 at Real Salt Lake in the first leg of the MLS Western Conference semifinals. Now Seattle is on the brink of elimination, and will rely heavily on its star midfielder, Alonso, if it hopes to advance to the next round.

The Sounders without Alonso is like a ship without a navigator. It is Alonso who helps spark the attack, plays tenacious defense, typically bosses the midfield and is hardly shy when it comes to challenging for the ball. Throw in the fact that he has a dangerous shot from distance and runs miles up and down the pitch on game nights chasing attackers and keeping possession, and the Sounders have their man in the middle.

That's why the club made it such a high priority to sign him to a contract extension last year, one that should keep him in the Pacific Northwest through the 2014 season. Management and coaches saw that tenacity and those skills, and wanted to hang onto them as Alonso, 25, eases into the prime years of his career.

"We knew he was a bulldog who covered a lot of ground, but the first year, he surpassed our expectations," general manager Adrian Hanauer told the Seattle Times last week. 

It took a couple of years for the rest of soccer nation outside of Seattle to catch on and truly see how much of a difference the native of Cuba makes for the team. A little of that was Alonso's injury history — specifically a nagging quadriceps injury that bothered him in cold weather and cost him a handful of games the past two seasons. A little could have been his penchant for hard tackles and physical confrontation, which manifested itself in last Saturday's first playoff leg.

But now Alonso is recognized as one of the premiere holding midfielders — if not the best — in the league.

"One always wants to give more and more and more, but I'm really happy with everything I have done and everything I've achieved, and the club seems satisfied with me," Alonso said in an interview in Spanish. "I was really happy with the opportunity that management and coaches gave me with the contract and I'm glad I'm able to stay here and contribute to the team."

Seattle is a long way from the Charleston Battery, where the Sounders first saw the man who would anchor their midfield in the early days of the MLS franchise. It's a long way from Houston, where Alonso defected by leaving the Cuban national team during the 2007 Gold Cup, walking out of a Wal-Mart and onto a bus to Miami. It's a long way from San Cristobal, Cuba, Alonso's hometown. But now it is home for Alonso, his wife and daughter. 

"Everything here is great, the fans, the team, the trainers, the coaches. We're a close-knit group," Alonso said. "It's great to be here in Seattle and have all the support from the fans, and that makes me a little emotional.

"It's always been a dream. Little by little I've achieved it, but now I am here and I'm able to grow more as a player," he added.

The chance to play abroad in Europe is also in Alonso's thoughts as something "anyone would want," he said, but he's only thinking about the Sounders at present. Europe can wait.

Other goals for Alonso: he'll begin the process of applying for U.S. citizenship next year, and he hopes that the political climate will one day allow him to play for a unified Cuban team in international competition. 

"If we were given the chance to play together (those in Cuba and those who have left), as a team, I think the team would challenge for a spot in the World Cup from this region," he said.

Alonso has heard the talk of him as an MLS MVP candidate, and says it would be welcomed but that he doesn't think about it much. It would be great, he said, but winning a championship matters more. 

He's also aware of those who label him the heart of the team. 

"That makes me happy," he said, "because it shows that the people see and enjoy the way I play. That I'm all about getting wins for Seattle." 

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42 Responses to MLS Spotlight: Seattle a perfect fit for Alonso

  1. T says:

    He defected from a Wal-Mart in Houston? Makes me wonder just how easy it seems to be able to sneek in the United States. The rest of the world doesn’t have frequent illegal alien problems like we do, probably because there are alot of “lazy daisies” on the job, nevertheless he has been a solid as well as influential contributer to our league.

  2. JJ says:

    I bought his jersey at the 3rd game of ’09. He is a special player and a solid guy. He even signed it for me from the sideline last year.

    I hope he comes back to end his career in Seattle after tearing up some bigger league(s). Ozzie is already one of our greats.

  3. mistadobolina says:

    The Unified Cuban national team! Mycal Galindo, Alonso, a few guys from the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and the PR islanders.. im all for it but good luck getting to the Hex. let alone the world cup

  4. T says:

    After only 3 years, I think he’s a decent player, but a legend already! Alot of MLS fans seem to be quick to call a good player a legend after only a short amount of time, the only MLS greats I can think of are Brian Mcbride, Valderrama, Pope, Moreno, Lassiter, and Donovan(when he retires) and maybe ….. mayyyyyyyybe …… “EL Pescadito”.

  5. Edwin in LA says:

    What tha hell?

    Where do you leave guys like Etcheverry, Preki, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Cobi Jones, Dwayne DeRosario, Kevin Hartman, Pat Onstad???

    Taylor Tweillman and Pat Noonan might be up there too!

  6. T says:

    Sorry….. my memory must’ve been a bit bad.

  7. jcl says:

    Seriously

  8. Edwin in LA says:

    You might not understand what happened.

    He was with the Cuban National Soccer team in Houston while playing some games in Houston at the Reliant Center, the stadium for Houston’s NFL team Houston Texans, and they went to a local Wal-Mart, he then defected as in left the Cuban team concentration and asked for Political asylum.

    Not sure if you know this but Cuban nationals are given asylum once they reach US territory no matter how they get here. He was in the US legally with a work temporary visa to conduct business. He just left the team and found his way to the proper authorities and asked for asylum. It happens all the time.

    Although you’re probably right about your point of how our border in the south and maybe the north too, is too easy to sneak in. And there probably is a lot of “lazy daisies” working it

  9. Edwin in LA says:

    Cool, just wondering if it was a definite list.

    Osvaldo could be legend if he plays a good 8-10 years but in JJ’s defense I think he might of referring to Osvaldo being one of the greats of the Sounders.

    He’s played in all 3 of their years of MLS existance. And he’s really been MLS Best XI all 3 years if you ask me.

    Beckerman is up there to challenge and has a lot of assists especialy for a defensive/holding mid. Temu Tainio was up there in the same level to compete for best Holding mid in the league but then the team had a drop off. I’d say Tainio is about 4th if you ask me..

    Juninho is the Wild card, better than Beckerman despite having less assists but mainly because Beckham gets the ball wide or even in the central area of the field and does most of the passing so Juninho’s pass usually is the 3rd to last or later. Beckham’s is almost always the assisting pass or right before it.

    And to me Juninho is playing out of position a bit, he is really more of the guy who would play in front of him, the Creative Attacking Midfielder.

    Osvaldo is MLS Best XI, he keeps it up, legend for sure! And don’t forget his CCL performances!

  10. Bob says:

    All I know is that Alonso shouldn’t be playing on Wednesday.

  11. Paul Dickov says:

    +1 – the Sounders “star midfielder” shouldn’t be on the pitch at all tomorrow. I like his toughness, but he’s honestly one of my least favorite MLS players simply because of his attitude. Dude’s a total punk.

  12. T says:

    True, skill-wise he plays his position well, but as a person sometimes his attitude will get the best of him and be detrimental to the team. Nevertheless, Wednesday is a do-or-die for the Sounders and I predict a death is all but set in stone, barring a completely unbelievable overly dramatic made for t.v. comeback scenario, they’ll be sitting at home for the 3rd consecutive year during the holidays.

  13. JJ says:

    That guy flopped. Watch it again.

    I don’t know why you have “star midfielder” in quotes, he obviously is. That is not even debatable.

    “Total punk”? No way. He is pure class and he fights for his team as hard as he can. You would kill to have him on your team and so would your team.

  14. Tim says:

    Alonso’s hands went to his neck. Watch it again. Rules are Rules. No hands to the face/neck Dickov… I’m sure he just wanted to lightly massage Sabo’s jugular…

  15. DingDong says:

    Why does and how can Josh Saunders play for Puerto Rico?

  16. T says:

    played for islanders.

  17. marco says:

    Alonso is the best DM in MLS. He frequently plays as the only DM as Evans and Friberg help occasionally. He is a great tackler, ball winner, tops the league. He has a decent long range shot and is a very good distributor. My guess is that he also covers the most miles during a game.

  18. Tim says:

    Excuse me I meant JJ

  19. Paul Dickov says:

    Pure class? CLASS? You can argue that he’s talented and one of the top DM’s in the league.. but class shouldn’t be in the discussion. His heart and fight for his team gets in the way of his overall success.

  20. Mistadobolina says:

    Wow the gold cup/qualifiers are a free tix out then.

    To t: every country with a half decent economy does..

    Best of luck to the Unified Cuba team!

  21. fischy says:

    Wow!

    You answered that with grace, understanding and aplomb…whereas I would have been a snide jerk about the poster’s ignorance…and probably his politics, too. I salute you.

  22. fischy says:

    I’ve been a huge admirer since I saw him play for the Battery against DC United in the US Open Cup final. He was the best player on the pitch that day and I was hoping that DCU took notice. For years, I blamed the DC front office for not getting him, but someone recently pointed out that Seattle probably had priority for a discovery claim, being an expansion side.

  23. sammysounder says:

    If Alonso deserved a red for that then at least five guys deserved red at the end of the NY/LA match.

  24. Travis says:

    to call him a punk is just foolish. he has lost his cool a couple of times recently, but he usually is fairly well mannered and timely with his challenges. the majority of his bookings are for professional fouls.

  25. Rex says:

    noonan blows

  26. Jose says:

    SSFC needs a monster game from him and Montero.

  27. WileyJ says:

    crap.

  28. WileyJ says:

    Sounders fan.

  29. Edwin in LA says:

    Cheers!

  30. Alonsoisaturd says:

    Alonso is a thug. Plain and simple. Only SSFC fans are blinded to his hack job attempt at playing soccer. He is Brian Mullan waiting to happen.

    Oh, and MLS, kiss mine. You suspend and fine players for committing less egrigious acts of thugism.

    He should be suspended for tonights game. The only reason he isn’t is because MLS wants SSFC to advance.

  31. lassidawg says:

    I could be wrong, but I don’t recall seeing any players carted off for any of his tackles. Where was the suspension for the guy that took out Rosales in the Seattle DCU game.

    If he was on another team I probably wouldn’t like him either, but he is on our team so we love him.

  32. clayg says:

    I don’t see any difference in what he did to Sabo and what Beckerman did in the Chicago game that got him a multiple game suspension. The fact the he turned, walked a good distance and maliciously struck a player in the head/neck should be straight red and additional games. Outside of that you have to love the fight for his team, but I would lean more to the thug end of the spectrum on this guy as his “passion” often comes off as reckless.

  33. Robinswood says:

    Shocked if he doesn’t end up in the EPL next season. Man U players were dazzled by him, despite the lopsided score. He’s a prototypical D-mid: great holding skills, one of the best tacklers I’ve ever seen, tough, tough, tough, and may have the strongest work rate I have ever seen out of a player.

    If you don’t watch him game in/game out, you really can’t appreciate the level of play and work this guy puts out.

  34. sciroccer says:

    He shouldn’t be playing tonight, he should have had a red card for grabbing Saborio. MLS is completely unfair. Beckerman gets a 3 games suspension for a head butt, and Alonso gets a yellow??? Total crap! Oh well, Seattle’s going home after tonight anyway!

  35. Aaron says:

    Bitter, table for 1…

  36. marco says:

    Altough he signed a new contract, I can’t see him staying in MLS, way too good. Sigi had the good fortune to have him, and he milked him by often letting Ozzie alone at DM, so others could go forward.

  37. BriY says:

    I think that Sabario’s reputation is what saved Alonso from getting a red. He had already collapsed like a house of cards twice trying to draws cards on the Sounders (one painfully obvious on a “tackle” by Hurtado). If the referee had any doubt about what may have happened, or didn’t quite see it, but saw the result of Sabario on the ground again, maybe he was a little hesitant in case it was another flop.

  38. mikey says:

    He rarely loses his cool. You witnessed the one time he’s done a flagrant off the ball foul and you call him a punk?

    What does that make Beckerman?

    Show me a holding mid that has never committed a foul

  39. mikey says:

    Alonso is no worse tham any other CDM in the league. If he’s a thug, then so is every other CDM in the league. So is Henry, Beckerman, Woolard, Mullan, Zemansky, DeRo, should I go on?

  40. mikey says:

    It’s flopping karma. Tell Saborio to stop flopping and you’ll get those calls in the future.

  41. jaq says:

    He probably should’ve gotten a Red on Saturday, but he didn’t, so let it go. RSL had a very questionable call in their favor too.
    There are lots of players who lose their temper on the field, it’s a part of the game. It’s also a part of the game when they get carded. Ozzy’s attitude is not the best in the league, but it is certainly not the worst either.
    Far better to have someone likely to get suspended for being over aggressive than someone who gets suspended for diving.
    That actually may have been a contributing factor in the ref’s call on Saturday. If a player develops a reputation for diving they can’t expect the ref to be too eager hand out red cards to the opposing team. Not that Sabo wasn’t fouled this time, but he has a history.

  42. jaq says:

    If MLS wanted Sounders to advance the ref would’ve disallowed Sabo’s offsides goal.
    Ozzy deserved a red card, but you have obviously only seen one Sounders game if you think he is a thug. He is a tough player and has a temper, I think he was lucky not to get a red, but one bad foul does not make him a thug.
    I don’t call Beckerman a thug. I may dislike him, but I don’t think he’s a thug just because he headbutted someone, and that was a foul waaaay worse than Ozzy’s hands-to-neck shove.