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Latino players influenced Sounders success since MLS Day 1

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They’re bringing more than stereotypical technical play to the team. They are part of its heart and soul.

David Estrada celebrates his third goal with Fredy Montero.
David Estrada celebrates his third goal with Fredy Montero.
Photo by Jane Gershovich/JaneG. Photography

The Sounders have always had a strong core, and a lot of their strength comes from the tight knit Latino players who have molded this team through the years.

In 2009 this MLS team was built with the Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jhon Kennedy Hurtado from Colombia and Costa Rican veteran Leo Gonzalez in the back. The central channel was the domain of unknown Cuban Osvaldo Alonso, promoted from the USL. Attacking duties were led by a young Colombian named Fredy Montero, brash and exciting with flair and a scoring touch that hinted at greatness to come.

This core showed a blueprint for how the team would utilize the talents of Latino players that they still use in building a squad to this day. The group quickly bonded, and found Seattle their home away from home while keeping a strong connection to each other and their community.  Together they grew up and shared in the team’s successes in the early days.

This is why Hugo Garcia is running Sounder at Heart today

Through each iteration of Sounders, there has always been veteran leadership to mentor the young stars, and it started with Gonzalez and Hurtado mentoring Alonso and Montero but soon the team would add another player, this time Uruguayan National Team member Alvaro Fernandez. He quickly bonded with the young star Montero and they remain great friends to this day.

After this young player they took a chance on an experienced veteran "trialist" who rapidly became a locker room and on field leader in Mauro Rosales. He would wear the captain’s armband for most of his years with Seattle. Montero and Alonso have also worn the band at times.

The next year they added Mario Martinez to the team, hoping the young Honduran would follow the success of Montero and Alonso in developing. Rosales left the team but was replaced with another veteran presence, the Mexican national team stalwart Gonzalo Pineda. At every step of the way there has been a Hispanic player who was a leader of the team both in the locker room and on the field.

To end 2016 and for the three years after that, the team is the Nicolas Lodeiro show, but it’s the leadership of now-veteran Alonso, the presence of Torres, Valdez and Fernandez who are making his transition so smooth.

Will Roldan be the next generation to succeed on this team? Flaco sure thinks so.

Whether it’s youth (Alonso, Montero, Martinez, Rossi, Roldan, Alfaro) or veterans (Alonso, Fernandez, Torres, Valdez, Rosales, Pineda, Gomez) the club looks to Latino players not just for stereotypical traits like flair and technical ability, but for stout defense, effort and leadership.

One just needs to look at the Designated Players the Seattle Sounders have signed. You can see that Latin America is strongly represented with six players from the region (Argentina, Cuba, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay twice) and six of the DPs coming from a combination of the USA, Grenada, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and Nigeria.

Draft picks are a mix of Latino players and the American stereotypical soccer player. It is a recognition that American soccer is two nations, just like the Sounders are on the field. The ability to integrate Latino players into the team is a challenge that the front office embraces, because it helps them win games and win hearts.

This post is brought to you by Hugo Garcia (@MiVidaSeattle) who won an auction to run Sounder at Heart for a day.