Osvaldo Alonso had his typically controlling match in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinal series against the Portland Timbers on Saturday night. He disrupted the Portland midfield and got the Seattle attack rolling throughout the match.
Those qualities earned him MLS Best XI honors in 2012, but on Saturday night, he added a crucial 90th minute goal to keep Sounders FC in the series, though with a 2-1 deficit after the first leg of the series.
“2-0 down, I saw the space to go forward. Scoring the goal was great for me and for the team,” Alonso said. “Now we have to prepare mentally and physically. It’s just one less goal that we have to score to advance to the next round.”
Throughout the match, Alonso was a workhorse in the Seattle midfield.
He completed 91.5-percent of his 59 passes – both highs for the match – and gained possession for Seattle 12 times.
That work rate isn’t lost on his teammates.
“You know that you’re going to get a good shift out of him and he’s going to fight as hard as he can for you,” said Clint Dempsey, who played in front of Alonso in the diamond formation. “When you’re going into tough games, that’s who you want by your side.”
In the final minutes, Alonso moved into the attack more as Seattle shifted from the diamond midfield to a more traditional 4-4-2. He finished the match with two shots, the first coming in the 89th minute, then scored the critical goal in the 90th minute.
It was the difference-making type of goal for Seattle, who now goes down to Portland for the second leg on Thursday needing just a one-goal victory to force overtime.
“That goal gave us the confidence to go down there and play our game,” Alonso said. “It’s better to go down there 2-1 than 2-0. We will see what happens Thursday.”
In the crucial match, Sounders FC may be at a disadvantage, trailing going into JELD-WEN Field where the Timbers rarely lose. However, the team is filled with confidence in large part because of the heart of the team, Alonso.
“He always runs his socks off. He breaks up plays. He’s smart. He keeps possession well. He’s just a fighter,” Dempsey said. “He’s a guy that works really hard for the team and I’m glad to be playing alongside him.”