Sounders’ Alonso earns U.S. citizenship

OzAlonso (Getty Images)

Osvaldo Alonso is a hard-tackling, long-range shooting, sound-distributing midfielder, one of the best at his craft in MLS. He is also now an American.

The 26-year-old Seattle Sounders midfielder passed his U.S. citizenship test last Thursday, completing a five-year process that dates back to when he defected from Cuba during the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Alonso's story is well-documented. While with the Cuban national team in Houston during that tournament, he bolted from a team trip at a Walmart and found his way to the USL's Charleston Battery before signing with Seattle in 2009.

So what does Alonso's new citizenship status mean for his hopes of potentially playing for the United States men's national team?

It should not mean much. Despite the fact that Alonso and his agent will be petitioning to FIFA for a change of association, his chances would appear to be faint at best. Given that he has played in a Gold Cup, an "A" competition by FIFA standards, for Cuba, he should be prohibited from suiting up for any other nation. Considering that Alonso was also not eligible to play for the United States while he played for Cuba, that works against his favor as well.

What Alonso is holding out hope for is that FIFA recognizes that since he is no longer allowed to play for Cuba and is prohibited by Cuban government from entering the country again, he will be granted the opportunity to switch international allegiances.

"In Ozzie's case, there's an argument there," Alonso's agent, Shaun Higgins, told SBI. "We're going to see where FIFA lies with that decision. 

"He's excited about the potential opportunity. He obviously has to show to the U.S. national team staff that he's that caliber of a player (should a favorable decision be granted)." 

Higgins added that there is no set timetable for the decision and that the petition would formally be submitted in the coming days.

Regardless, gaining his U.S. citizenship is important for Alonso off the field, as he can now be reunited with family members whom he has not seen in five years, including both of his parents and his sister, according to the Sounders' official website.

"On a personal level, it's obviously great for him," Higgins said. "On a soccer level, it's exciting for him to see what the future holds."

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What do you think of this development? Are you holding out hope that Alonso will be granted a ruling that allows him to play for the USA? Where do you think he would fall in the U.S. central midfield depth chart?

Share your thoughts below.

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80 Responses to Sounders’ Alonso earns U.S. citizenship

  1. Andrew says:

    My impression was that political asylum was one of FIFA’s exceptions to cap-tying.

    Not that I think Alonso would break into the US central midfield, which is pretty crowded already.

  2. Joe+G says:

    I give him credit for exploring this directly instead of tossing it over to USSF to figure it out.

    And the obligatory “CAP HIM NOW!”

  3. tdb says:

    Is he not allowed to file a one time switch?

  4. matt says:

    I don’t think the switch applies if you’ve played in a competitive match. Since he represented Cuba in the Gold Cup, he isn’t eligible for a switch. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

  5. Me says:

    “hard-tackling, long-range shooting, sound-distributing midfielder”

    Like Beckerman, Bradley, Edu, and Jones? And he’s older than them?

    Happy for him from a human perspective. From a usmnt perspective, not much emotion.

  6. Mike says:

    I believe the rule regarding the one-time switch is that you must have been eligible for the other country as a youth player when you initially played for the first country.

    However, given the political climate surrounding Cuba and political asylum I wouldn’t be shocked to see an exception.

  7. IndianaGooner says:

    Osvaldo Alonso – Born November 11th, 1985

    Kyle Beckerman – Born April 23rd, 1982
    Jermaine Jones – Born November 3rd 1981

    He’s also less than a year younger than Edu

  8. IndianaGooner says:

    *Year older than Edu

  9. scott47a says:

    Not to mention Alonso is better than Beckerman. Not Edu and Jones and Bradley, but Beckerman for sure.

  10. Old School says:

    “I’m not happy about this.”

    -Mitt Romney

  11. Jeremy says:

    While I agree with you, I think he matches up against the CONCACAF opponents much better than Jones or Edu though.

  12. cj says:

    since you went political. Why would u say that. Mitt is about to pick a first generation Cuban to be his VP, and you are going racial, talk about going all Jermaine Jones.

  13. Camjam says:

    I could see him being used to “replace” Beckerman in the future. I mean, the debate in MLS is always seems to be Alonso v. Beckerman as far as best holding mi; but Ozzie is 4 years younger. 4 years is an entire World Cup cycle, so I personally hope we could get him available.

  14. RLW2020 says:

    congrats to him, how is he now allowed to see his family? i assume they are in Cuba how is he allowed to see them now?

    the whole Cuba – US hiding from each other thing needs to end, anyhow keep the politics off this site.

    I could really see him making a January camp appearance if allowed. If he impresses there he could into or over the Fielhaber, Beckerman, Zuzi, etc. crowd.

  15. Camjam says:

    I don’t think he’s as good on the ball as Beckerman. In fact Beckerman has looked much better overall than Alonso in 2012.

  16. DJ says:

    If you’re referring to Rubio, the news just reported he hasn’t even been vetted. So it looks unlikely that the Romney campaign is going that route. Tough sell for Latinos without Rubio. Especially with all the hard line immigration bills in Arizona, Bama, etc.

    Anywho, let’s see Alonso compete if FIFA let him play. For my money, apart from Jones and Bradley, he’s better than the other 2. Imagine if he played against Cuba in a Gold Cup. They wouldn’t be kind to him, I’d reckon.

  17. danielofthedale says:

    I think he is a far better player than Mo Edu is. Better tackler and better passer.

  18. ChrisTheLSUTiger says:

    Wait, how does he get to see family and friends again now that he’s a citizen? I’m confused.

  19. T says:

    Unfortunately in CONCACAF, tough defensive play and hard-nosed tackling gets you red card. Alonso would be a target internationally in our squad, MLS is a physical so he can get away with that style of play in the league.

  20. B 16 says:

    A good MLS player a USMNT star does not necessarily make

  21. CA says:

    Agreed 100%

  22. marco says:

    “… citizenship status mean for his hopes of potentially playing for the United States men’s national team?”
    Book him Dano. He’s better than Beckerman ( those who disagree, go to MLS stats, no contest)and at least equal to Edu.

  23. marco says:

    MLS Stats 2011 showed Alonso with twice as many tackles as any other D-mid including Beckerman. That’s complete destruction, twice as many.

  24. Michael Stypulkoski says:

    But hasn’t Beckerman missed a lot of time while with the NT?

  25. Michael Stypulkoski says:

    What does Jones have to do with this? And who says Romney is going to pick Rubio? And…you know what, never mind, I’m already getting a headache.

  26. marco says:

    2011 tackles, GP Tkls
    Osvaldo Alonso SEA 43 213 4.95
    Gonzalo Segares CHI 40 138 3.45
    Diego Chara POR 37 126 3.41
    Benny Feilhaber NE 29 93 3.21
    Richard Eckersley TOR 31 92 2.97

  27. marco says:

    2012,
    “Through eight games, Alonso once again leads MLS in total tackles by a wide margin, averaging nearly three more tackles per game (6.50) than his closest competition, the Rapids’ Brian Mullan (see chart at right). He leads the league in interceptions per game as well, outpacing the league’s best in a statistical category traditionally dominated by defenders.”

    No contest, none at all.

  28. cj says:

    The Jones reference is sarcasm. His Romney comment was like a hard unnecessary tackle that gets u a yellow. And to Rubio being Vetted Romney came out and held an impromptu presser to say Rubio is being begged and called out ABC for a made up story. The other guy nobody is talking about who is quietly being begged is Gov. Furtado of Puerto Rico. So I hope the anti Hispanic racial crticism stopes and let’s keep this focused on the beautiful game.

  29. Coach says:

    I would like seeing him over Edu. I think his distribution is better and tackles heavier.

  30. Skeeter says:

    With a US passport he will be off to Europe

  31. MemRook says:

    I’m NO expert at all and could be completely wrong, but maybe because he can get a passport again and be able to travel overseas?

  32. Charles says:

    He wins games…period. I think he would do the same for the National team.

  33. Sarasota says:

    cj, Thank you for educating Old School and DJ on political current events. Sounds like Old School may enjoy life in Venezuala or Cuba.

    BTW, I hope Alonzo gets to play for us… he’s already better than Beckerman and Edu (although they are both good guys and good club players). Alonzo reminds me of Chris Armas.

    Vamos Rubio y Vamos Estados Unidos.

  34. Lost in Space says:

    While Alonso is a good player CDM is the deepest position the USNT has. Jones, Bradley, Edu, Torres, and Beckerman…not to mention the young players coming up…Williams, Morales, Kitchen. Not to say he wouldn’t have a chance, but he’d likely be a “B” teamer.

  35. Books says:

    They should allow him to play for the US team. He defected, so he obliviously was not happy play for (and living in) Cuba.

  36. vince says:

    what i’m wondering is how he will be able to see his parents? will his parents be allowed to enter the USA? I highly doubt the Cuban gov’t would allow that

  37. David J S says:

    This is part of the article on the Sounders’ official website:

    As a US citizen, he can now bring his family to come visit from Cuba. He anticipates that his mother and sister will come very soon to see him for the first time in five years, but he is not as certain about his father.

    “That’s my next challenge, to bring my mom and my sister,” Alonso said. “I don’t know if my dad wants to come, but in the future, if he says yes, then he can come.”

  38. hush says:

    Since no on has yet to say it, I will! .. CAP HIM!lol jk

  39. Max says:

    If he is granted the switch I might be the first in line for his U.S. jersey…The blue one – not that hideous striped shirt.

  40. Tyler says:

    He’s an automatic for the January camp if FIFA grants him permission. Talk about a feel good story, I’d like to see him in a US shirt for that very reason, not to mention he’s a hard nosed CDM who means business.

  41. no-fail callup says:

    YES BUT CAN HE PLAY CENTER BACK?

  42. marco says:

    But hasn’t Beckerman missed a lot of time while with the NT?

    no

  43. our back line is a leaky bucket says:

    unless he can play center back

  44. Dave says:

    “Tough sell for Latinos without Rubio. Especially with all the hard line immigration bills in Arizona, Bama, etc.”

    You’re assuming that all Latinos think alike about immigration. I think Latinos are more diverse than that. Sad.

  45. 2tone says:

    Good player. Pretty sure political asylum is one of FIFA’s exceptions. It would be awesome if they say yes. If so then the USMNT just gained a very good player. January camp invite is a no brainer!

  46. jpc says:

    Please!!!!! This is the man that will finally take Maurice Edu off this team permanently. I hope.

  47. Old School says:

    Wow.

    One sarcastic, albeit not far from the truth remark, and the shotgun wielding backwards bunch come out and pretend to be pro-diversity.

    Pure comedy.

  48. JJ says:

    Honey Badger = American Badass!

  49. Isaac says:

    I completely disagree. Edu isn’t great on the ball, but from a defensive standpoint, Edu is a actually really reliable and makes a lot of excellent tackles. Alonso might be better on the ball though.

  50. Camjam says:

    Exactly…. which is why my observation was based on 2012 form. Also, as I stated, Beckerman is much better on the ball.

  51. Camjam says:

    and yes, due to national team appearances (and suspensions, injuries, etc.) Alonso started 5 more games that Beckerman in 2011.

  52. sandtrout says:

    Yeah, but I want to hear what marco has to say about this!

  53. sandtrout says:

    Now Jermaine Jones has an heir! He can leave all his yellow cards and red cards to Alonso!

  54. Camjam says:

    But tackling is only 1 part of what and good holding player does. ALSO from MLS.com

    Player: Passes Ps/Game Passes final 1/3
    KB 2309 53.7 637
    Alonso 1887 43.88 621

    all this with 1% difference in passing accuracy. This was only through a few weeks ago, but I think is shows the point: Beckerman IS better on the ball. It also states in the article you refernced that Alonso almost never connects on long balls, which Beckerman is great at. Futhermore, another article in the “MLS Soccer Analytics” section makes the point that many times, having to tackle can be brought about by being in a poor position to begin with.

    Point being, it’s silly to say there is no comparison between the two. Both good in different ways, and I hope Alonso takes Beckerman’s “role” in the next WC cycle due to his 4 year age gap.

  55. g-dub says:

    The HB has an instinctual and unique style of aggressive ball winning that was never coached out of him by a structured Youth system. Can it translate beyond MLS? I think so. His ability on the ball has exponentially improved in 3 years in MLS. I’d bet on him succeeding in a big euro league and with the nats if he gets the chance. Klinsman would love this guy.

  56. Joe+G says:

    You missed by about 4 hours. See my earlier comment.

  57. Nate Dollars says:

    your comment was political, not very clever, and (most importantly) not that funny–so they responded appropriately, i think.

    if you had posted under an unfamiliar name, people would’ve assumed you were just trolling.

    you could’ve just acknowledged that it was a below-average comment, but instead you doubled down with personal insults. (i don’t really get the “shotgun” part, but then it sounds like you’re assuming that the commenters are all of one ethnicity?)

  58. Itsjoshadams says:

    1. Does the USMNT want a player who gave up on his own country?

    2. Holding midfield is our deepest position, he would not get on the field except for All-MLS squads.

  59. Enos says:

    D-baggery at it’s finest.

  60. bcoug says:

    Whether you look at total tackles or tackles per game, Ozzie blows the field away, that is not in dispute.

    Whether or not Beckerman is better on the ball is a subject of debate – he certainly hasn’t distinguished himself at all on the USMNT (also a debatable topic I suppose.)

  61. bcoug says:

    You can’t be serious about #1 – he left Cuba, not Canada.

  62. Micronesian Justin says:

    1. Please do not look at defecting from Cuba from a soccer standpoint. It had nothing to do with soccer.

    2. See the Beckerman debate above.

    3. Grow up.

  63. THomas says:

    Also what I was thinking. While FIFA rarely uses common sense, their cap-tying system/one time switch policy/etc. seem to work very well and use common sense.

    That said, I would think fleeing your country of birth for political asylum, then gaining citizenship in that new country, all before trying to switch his status would be looked upon favorably.

    Also consider the competition that cap tied him was the one he had to partake in to get into the US safely before defecting.

    Will be interesting to see.

  64. The Imperative Voice says:

    Rubio’s parents left Cuba in 56 which if you know your history makes them not Castro exiles (probably Bautista refugees instead). Rubio nonetheless claimed his family fled Castro. I trust him as far as I could pick him up and throw him.

    Beyond that, we have a confused immigration policy between, say, Mexican and Cuban immigrants. I’m pretty sure Romney and Obama would back Alonso’s citizenship but then if you’re from Central America everything’s different. The issue would not be Alonso it would be Marquez, so to speak. Politics.

  65. The Imperative Voice says:

    Does the embargo still ban travel to Cuba?

    And, while family of citizens are an immigration category, Cuba would have to let them leave. Would they?

  66. 2tone says:

    Is that even a serious comment? Thousands of Cubans have defected in the past 30 years. Maybe you should do some history research as to why Cubans defect from Cuba.

    And yes he would get on the field.

  67. Neruda says:

    Even if Alonso does get an exception from FIFA he’ll have to impress a lot more than fans on SBI. It really only matters if klinsmann likes Alonso. A contact from Europe would cause the coach to take note. It’s no guarantee as we can see with klijestan.

  68. The Imperative Voice says:

    Does he really want to switch? He gave a few reasons for wanting US citizenship but playing for the US is not mentioned, not even as a side benefit. He might very well be holding out for the ability to represent Cuba Libre so to speak while getting his present practical living situation in order by getting American citizenship.

    As long as you surround Alonso with attacking talent and not more DMs — a real concern after Klinsi fielded 4 DMs at Guatemala — pure destruction is valuable in its own right, and I think only Jones would be in his neighborhood on that aptitude.

  69. The Imperative Voice says:

    link to seattletimes.nwsource.com

    Per this article he would in fact be open to a switch. Which means that’s not the issue, it’s FIFA and/or how he’d fit. Assuming FIFA could be finessed I think you give him a Camp Cupcake look and see what he does.

  70. marco says:

    the results are TPG , per game.

  71. marco says:

    2012 stats below show you wrong again

  72. marco says:

    “It also states in the article you refernced that ‘Alonso almost never connects on long balls’,”

    You would have done well to put this in quotes. It sounds made up. It’s difficult to argue facts/numbers, with opinions and innuendo. It doesn’t change the numbers one bit. The argument that Alonso makes so many tackles because he’s out of position more often is silly.

  73. Kevin_Amold says:

    You are being ridiculous. Save your political sarcasm for the Huffington Post and stop polluting a soccer blog and turning everyone against each other.

    Also, the “conservatives are backward rednecks” stereotype is played out. Very lazy.

  74. Kevin_Amold says:

    Indeed….

  75. bryan says:

    this is correct. what happens on the youth level does not matter in the slightest. i’m not sure why Mike is talking about youth players.

    so long as you are NOT capped by your country in a MEANINGFUL game (e.g. Gold Cup, Copa America, WCQ, etc.) you are allowed to file a one-time switch to FIFA to play for your “other” country. that’s it.

    this is why F. Johnson did not need to be “cap tied”. he was effectively cap tied by using his one-time switch to go from a German player to a USA player.

  76. bryan says:

    very similar to the “liberals are all socialists” stereotype.

  77. bryan says:

    Guys, you are all arguing to the death about a guy that is battling for the 4th spot in that position on the A team. take it down a notch.

    obviously this would be great for the USMNT. anytime we get a quality player, i’m all for it. but he doesn’t deserve to start on the USMNT. if he replaces Beckerman, fine. but he would have played 0 minutes in the last WCQs, just like Beckerman.

    he’ll be great for games when we can use a B squad. at 26, he certainly has a chance to work his way up though. maybe move abroad. but lets see if he can even switch before we have that talk.

  78. primoone says:

    Now thats how you go out on a limb.

  79. Travis says:

    Now that he is a citizen, he can petition for his family (parents & sister in this case) to be allowed to immigrate to the US legally.

  80. bcoug says:

    Excellent point – no more speculation or idle chatter on the Internet from now on.