When opposing attackers venture through the middle of the field against the Sounders FC, they often do so with a bit of trepidation.
That, you see, is where Osvaldo Alonso strikes fear into the hearts of opponents with his fearless tackles, taking possession nearly at will.
His domain isn’t limited to the midfield, though, and he has extended his range to further corners of the field now in his fourth MLS season. And while his sheer dominance may not catch the national spotlight the way goalscorers do, he has garnered the respect of teammates, opponents and coaches around the league as he leads a charge of Sounders who could find themselves in the MSL Best XI when the season comes to an end on Sunday.
It’s a task that he takes very seriously and approaches with the same vigor whether he is playing against a teammate in training, an amateur team in the US Open Cup or the top opposing players in Major League Soccer.
Last week in scoreless draw against Real Salt Lake, Alonso was credited with five tackles won, five interceptions and 12 recoveries, putting a halt to the Salt Lake attack while the Sounders were playing down a man for the final hour of the match.
That type of performance is not atypical for Alonso, but it does not always gain the attention for its uniqueness. That is in part because it has become so commonplace for Alonso, but also because it is much less measurable than offensive statistics.
“There have always been those guys that you want to notice, but the stats aren’t there that you can measure,” said Sounders FC technical director Chris Henderson. “If you just watch one of our games, you can see.”
A defensive midfielder landing on the Best XI would hardly be unprecedented in Major League Soccer. Chris Armas, Ronnie Ekelun, Kerry Zavagnin and Shalrie Joseph have all earned Best XI nods from that role and Alonso could very well add his name to that list this year.
He isn’t alone with the Sounders though.
Michael Gspurning has been the top goalkeeper, statistically, in the league. While playing fewer games than Kansas City’s Jimmy Neilsen because of a hip injury, Gspurning has been the top of the league in goals against average at 0.72 and has eight shutouts in 19 full starts.
Meanwhile, defender Jeff Parke has been the most consistent defender on a defense that has allowed the second-fewest goals this season – a feat that could land him consideration for the Best XI as well.
“He’s consistent every game. He comes in unnoticed, but Jeff is so athletic. He can jump through the roof. He has good pace. His balance is good. He’s good in the air,” Henderson said. “He plays hard and competes and I think that any team in the league would like to have him part of their defense.”
Add to that the forward tandem of Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero and the Sounders are ripe with Best XI candidates. Johnson has been sensational in his return to MLS with 14 goals in 27 appearances, 23 of them starts, while Montero has continued his run as one of the best goal-scorers in MLS with 13 goals and eight assists.
“You end up going through the whole lineup because at the end of the day we want to be successful as a team and that’s the most important thing,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “When a team has success, then individual’s abilities show through a bit clearer and you get more awards.”
Voting for the season’s awards is under way and will be announced between the Conference finals and MLS Cup.