Last year the Sounders had a persistent pain in their side throughout the USL season. His name was Osvaldo Alonso. So when owner/general manager Adrian Hanauer had the opportunity to pick up the Charleston Battery midfielder for the Sounders FC, he leapt at the opportunity.
Seattle wasn’t the only team that Alonso played well against in his lone season in the USL last year, as he tallied four goals and two assists in 23 games for the Battery, earning first-team All-USL and league Rookie of the Year honors.
His path to the Sounders FC is not quite that simple though.
After playing three years with FC Pinar del Rio and winning the league championship in 2006 in his native Cuba, Alonso was traveling with the Cuban National Team to the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup in Houston. His 17th and final cap with the Cuban National Team came against Panama that summer. While the team was at a Wal-Mart, Alonso wandered away from his teammates and took the opportunity to leave the store, leaving his home country behind in the process.
The story rings strikingly similar to that of former USL Sounder Maykel Galindo, who defected during the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup in Seattle and played two seasons in Seattle before embarking on his MLS career with Chivas USA.
“We had good success with Maykel, mostly because he is a great soccer player who worked hard and was very talented,” Hanauer said. “I’m not going to say that we have some sort of unique experience or ability to assimilate Cubans into the soccer culture, but (it didn’t scare us away).”
However, that success with Galindo – and Galindo’s subsequent success at the MLS level – was encouraging to Alonso.
“It’s been positive for me to look at Galindo and what he experienced here,” Alonso said through a translator.
Described as a well-rounded player whose ability to push forward and play solid defense have been his benchmarks, Alonso is also a familiar face for head coach Sigi Schmid. Last year, Alonso, 23, trained with the Columbus Crew, but the depth of their midfield prevented him from earning a roster spot. So he ended up in Charleston with the Battery.
Ironically, the reason he had so much success against Seattle was because of Galindo, the former Sounder.
“When I first came to play for Charleston, I knew that I would have to play at a top level and playing against the Sounders I would have to play at a different level,” Alonso said. “That’s why it was probably difficult for them to defend me.”
Alonso becomes the 18th player signed to the Sounders FC roster. They will continue training at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center at 10 am until Friday. They will begin training in Ventura, Calif., next Tuesday, leading up to the season opener March 19 at Qwest Field against the New York Red Bulls.