A small crowd of players gather around Osvaldo Alonso and a deck of cards.
He is showing his latest card trick to a group of six players and staff at a team dinner while the Sounders are in Tucson for preseason training.
They are the standard tricks – his mark pulls a card from the deck and through the process of the caper and a bit of sleight of hand, Alonso eventually reveals the card that was selected.
With each round, the crowd grows larger and the reaction louder. Finally, at the end of the night, the whole team surrounds him while he does one last trick, puzzling his mark – and the gathering crowd – each time as he unveils the card he selected.
Such has been the legend of Osvaldo Alonso.
Once a quiet little secret among the tens of thousands of Sounders FC supporters that go through the turnstiles at CenturyLink Field, Alonso has grown into more and more of a national phenom with each passing season. In 2012, he was named to the MLS Best XI squad for the first time in his career. The attention is something new for Alonso, who was happy to play his position and do his job in relative anonymity.
“I don’t score a lot of goals. My main function is to organize the team, play simple, play quick and keep the ball,” Alonso said. “I do my best for my team and they gave me that award last year.”
Like the midfield position that he has mastered in Major League Soccer, he originally learned the card tricks with some friends in Cuba. As he has grown into a more and more prolific star in MLS, he has also grown more and more comfortable in his new surroundings – living in Seattle, speaking English and coming out of his shell as he grows more at ease with the language.
That has helped open himself up to his teammates and communicate better than he ever has on the field.
“I could understand, but communicating with them was hard,” he said. “I had to think about what I wanted to say in Spanish, translate it, then say it in English. Now it is much easier.”
Likewise, he has become more marketable in a league of stars.
Last month he was part of an MLS marketing outreach in Miami, Florida, where he was joined by other Spanish-speaking stars from around the league to help promote the league in Hispanic communities and markets.
Even as the recognition mounts, he still remains humbly eager to participate in anything that comes his way.
“I’m very happy to represent MLS and the Seattle Sounders,” he said. “When they called me I was surprised. It was something that I’d never done before, but it was a good experience.”
Watching Alonso perform his card tricks, it is no wonder that he can deftly work around the midfield and take the ball off the feet of his opponents with such apparent ease.
Like the tricks, fans are often left wondering, “How did he do that?”
The answer may be simple. However, a magician never reveals the secret behind his tricks.
Meet Ozzie at the Downtown Pro Shop from 6pm tonight, March 19!