Ozzie Alonso huddle San Jose 2018-10-29
Jane Gershovich

Seattle Sounders stalwart Osvaldo Alonso the key to team's 10th consecutive playoff appearance

Osvaldo Alonso has been synonymous with the Seattle Sounders ever since he joined the club ahead of the 2009 inaugural MLS season

For 10 straight seasons, he’s been among the league’s best defensive midfielders, dominating the opposition and driving his team forward. And for the tenth straight season, he’s guided the Rave Green to a postseason berth.

“His ability to grow and age well — and add subtleties to his game that he might not have had when he was younger, while still keeping some of those positives from when he was younger now at an older age — amazes me,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “He’s been great. He’s been a good captain.”

Alonso, who was recently named as a finalist for 2018 MLS Comeback Player of the Year, is enjoying one of his best seasons as a Sounder. In the 21 matches he’s started in 2018, the Sounders are 14-5-2, which averages out to 2.1 points per game. On the latest episode of Winging it with Zakuani, Sounders FC broadcaster Steve Zakuani heaped praise on his former teammate.

“What a season he’s had,” he said. “Listen, we can debate all day. Is his level what it was? Is it not what it was? I played with the guy, I know the guy. The stretch of form he’s been in since the summer is as good as anything I saw when I was with him. And trust me, in 2009, 2010, 2011, when I would email friends back home in London about my teammates, that was the first name. It was Osvaldo Alonso.”

Whether it’s the eye test or advanced analytics, there’s no denying that Alonso has been critical to the Sounders’ decade of dominance. As Schmetzer pointed out after training on Tuesday, it’s not just his consistency that’s been remarkable, but rather the way his game has evolved over the years. Alonso has always been a dominant defensive player, covering a ton of ground as he shields the back four, but his ability to impact the game in the final third has risen to a new level in 2018. He led MLS in passing accuracy this year with a 92.12 percent clip.

“I think Ozzie has been a rock for us from preseason when he was injured,” Cristian Roldan said after training on Thursday. “I think he’s been a fantastic role model for the younger players. He comes here to train each and every day. Him and Gustav [Svensson]’s pairing, I think, has been fantastic.

“As good as he is defensively, I don’t think he gets enough credit on the ball,” Roldan continued. “He really controls the game, makes the ball move, makes players move, finds his openings to bomb forward. And he’s just so solid. You rely on him so much. I really think he’s playing at one of his highest levels of his career.”

A true steward of the club, Alonso’s impact extends beyond the First Team’s success on the pitch. With so many talented players rising through the Academy pipeline, including several U.S. youth national team defensive midfielders, Seattle’s provides an excellent example for the club’s future Homegrown players.

“Ozzie has set the standard for our positional profile of a holding midfielder,” said Sounders FC Director of Player Development and Academy Director Marc Nicholls. “I think what is very visible and obvious for the young players to glean is that he’s a fierce competitor. In that sense, he’s an example of a winner. For our young players, Ozzie really epitomizes what it means to be and what it takes to be a Seattle Sounder.”

With 23 career appearances in the MLS Playoffs under his belt, Alonso’s experience and veteran leadership will be critical to the Sounders reaching a third consecutive MLS Cup.