Micheal Azira has logged 816 minutes in central midfield (9 starts) for Seattle Sounders FC since joining the team in 2014 - a sample size large enough to begin to place his performance within the broader context of MLS midfielders. In the role chart above, Azira's combined 2014/2015 numbers are compared to 84 MLS starting midfielder performances from 2014 (data assembled from whoscored.com). The high passing volume of Seattle's central midfield reflects the team's high-pace offense - and Azira has managed to (mostly) play up to speed with the strategy. At 85%, his passing accuracy ranks well above average (bearing in mind that the Sounders midfield emphasizes a great deal of low-risk possession). Unfortunately, his more-than-respectable mark of 10.81 defensive actions per 90' belies recent troubles. Excluding recoveries, Azira recorded 1 defensive action on Saturday - a 40th minute tackle. This marks his second straight game of becoming defensively invisible for long stretches of play. It wasn't for lack of trying - Azira was called for 5 fouls, all within the defensive half and 4 within the defensive third.
We shouldn't think that Osvaldo Alonso never suffers a poor defensive performance, but those are extremely rare. Azira's second such game in his 4 tries at directly replacing the Sounders midfield DP should prompt some concern. Seattle may never have enough depth, in this generation of MLS, to account for missing its 5 best players for a tough road game - but the team has never found a way to consistently make up for 1 specific player. Alonso has started 142 games for the Sounders since the beginning of the 2010 season (garnering 1.80 points per game, and a goal difference of +66). 6 different players have filled his role in the 27 games he missed or started on the bench:
If Seattle can't be a playoff-competitive team in its present style without Osvaldo Alonso, it may need to come up with different approach to account for his absence in key games.
Edit: Due to some popular demand, here's a version of the chart above with a few more named data points for the sake of context. On a cautionary note, remember that this plot is heavily determined by role and team style.