Beyond the spectacle of it all–the crowd, the goals, the unlikely outcome–many of us came away from then-Qwest Field that brisk March night seven years ago believing we had found our next Mr. Sounder.
In 2009, Ozzie Alonso had pulled on the 6 shirt and instantly made it his own. For all the flash of the Rave jerseys, for all the flair exhibited by Fredy Montero, Seattle fans have always held their highest regard for a man with bite. A player who competes, who gives no quarter, who wins ball after ball and tackles hard. He makes the nuanced plays, the runs to open space and close down runners. He plays hard but stops short of becoming a hard man, at least from the home perspective.
Alonso covers acres of ground in each appearance, and last week's Vancouver derby marked his 250th appearance for Seattle in all competitions.
There are those players whom we never wish to leave Sounderland, if only because we never wish to play or cheer against them. And yes, of course we love that sort of competitor.
Jimmy Gabriel, the original No. 6 and the original Mr. Sounder, never played for another U.S. club and has long made his home here, near the Sound. Nearly 40 years since his last tackle, we still love Jimmy.
Sounders fans can't imagine Alonso ever appearing in opposing colors. Yet during the past winter, we were given pause to contemplate just such a possibility. The untouchable tag was removed and Alonso's name was dangled for all MLS to see. For me, the thought of seeing Ozzie in purple or orange or red was repugnant.
Thankfully, Alonso's only offseason travel was the previously-thought-to-be impossible and emotional trip back to his island homeland. By first kick he was right back where he belonged, wearing the Rave Green 6 and in very fine form in the middle of the park.
When the Honey Badger's at the top of his game, he gives Seattle the best chance to win. Fans have rated him a solid 7 through the first five matches. Clearly, Alonso is not only back but performing as well as ever. Now if only the rest of the pieces can fall into place, the Sounders can begin climbing the table.
While Zach Scott is the faraway leader in combined Sounders (USL and MLS eras) appearances, at 336 and counting, Alonso is the first to log 250 for any Seattle top flight entity. Scott Jenkins played 262 times in the A-League and USL-1.
Two-hundred fifty becomes all the more impressive when taking into account Alonso's traits: increased mileage as a midfielder, tackling and his overall tenacity. Almost always he goes the full 90, full-on.
Without knowing whether the club marks these occasions with plaques or maybe a few platitudes in the locker room, it just feels right to acknowledge such a milestone, especially knowing the amount of commitment and passion Ozzie puts into it. Keep on doing your thing, Mr. Sounder, for many years to come.
Frank MacDonald is a Seattle soccer journalist and historian. This story first appeared on his website and has been republished here with his permission.