It is no secret that Osvaldo Alonso plays on the edge. He had done a better job of controlling himself recently, but he’s never been one to back from a challenge. That’s what we love him. That’s what has prompted us to give him nicknames like “El Corazon” or “Honey Badger.” He plays with heart, like he just doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him.
It’s also what has allowed a player no one had heard of at 22 years old to become one of the greatest defensive midfielders in MLS history.
But playing that way also comes with risks. We were reminded of that once again on Wednesday.
Sure, Will Bruin was probably guilty of instigating the exchange when he kicks out on Alonso. And Bruin is giving it as well as he’s receiving it in the exchange, even grabbing Alonso by the neck. There’s a very valid argument to be made that Bruin deserved a red, and it wouldn’t be remotely surprising if the Disciplinary Committee suspends him.
BUT, Alonso deserved that red too. He reached for and grabbed Bruin’s face multiple times. Just watch:
Alonso needs to know better. He has to do better. No one said it better than head coach Brian Schmetzer, who was clearly frustrated that he’s had team leaders red carded in two straight games and that the team will now be playing a third straight game without a key player who was suspended for something entirely preventable.
“The frustration was the same that I had with Brad [Evans],” Schmetzer said. “They work too hard ... You have to understood that Ozzie has always had a fiery temperament from day one. I am not making excuses for the kid, but the fact of the matter is that he has given us everything since I have taken over. There have been talks about him being a MVP candidate for our team.
“What I want from him, what I want from Brad and what I want from the rest of the team, is to make sure that this stops because we can’t afford to shoot ourselves in the foot anymore.”
The reality is that tying the Dynamo at home was not a disastrous result. Or at least it doesn’t have to be. The Sounders’ winning their previous two road games gives them a cushion to overcome these dropped points. They can still clinch a playoff spot as early as this week without pulling off a road win against FC Dallas and could even do it with a loss if both the Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes drop points.
But if this team is really going to make something special out of this year, they need to keep their best players on the field. Guys like Nicolas Lodeiro, Evans and Alonso need to be on the field. Let’s hope this was the final wakeup call the team needed.
Hail Cristian: That Cristian Roldan has developed into an indispensable player is not really news to anyone reading this blog. Still, it’s pretty cool to see him performing at such a high level.
In a game where the Sounders’ best players weren’t at the top of their games, there was Roldan doing a little bit of everything and doing it quite well. His 79 touches were the second most of any player, behind only Lodeiro. He also completed 90.4 percent of his passes and had a team-high six tackles.
With the Sounders dominating possession — especially before Alonso’s red — they were a exposed to the counter-attack. It was often Roldan coming in late to break up chances. He also had some nifty moments going forward, once nearly controlling a clever Lodeiro pass into the box and later fighting off a couple defenders to put in a cross. Oh, and just for good measure he even logged a solid 26 minutes as a left back. Ya know, just to show he could.
Roldan has gotten a lot of national attention for the goals and assists he’s had this year, but it’s all these little things that have made him a must-start on a team with quite a few capable midfielders.
Oh, Oalex: If there’s been one player who has seemingly drifted into oblivion under Schmetzer it’s Oalex Anderson. After playing in 13 of the team’s first 18 games — including a couple starts — Anderson had played only a single minute since July 13.
He finally got a decent run out against Houston, logging 16 minutes and once again showed glimpses of what made him an intriguing prospect. There was the back-heeled nutmeg he pulled off inside the penalty area. There was the speed that got him behind the back line. There was the cut back that opened up the passing lane.
Of course, it all came to nothing. The nutmeg was cleared by another defender. The run wasn’t spotted in time. The cut back resulted in a relatively weak shot. He clearly wants it so bad. He wants to score maybe even more than Nelson Valdez (which is saying something!).
Anderson is playing like someone who’s probably a bit too far inside his own head. He knows he needs to perform to get more minutes. He also knows the minutes he gets are precious. The ability seems to be there, but we may have to wait a little longer to get to see it.