ESPN FC recently published an anonymous survey of MLS players regarding a variety of league-related questions. One notable response for Sounders fans was to the question “which player crosses the line in terms of discipline more than any other?” Of the 140 players polled, 25 percent said that it was Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso.
It should be noted that the wording of the question doesn’t suggest that Alonso is “dirty” per se, just that he “crosses the line.” When asked about this, Alonso said “I play my game, I don’t care what people say. I play my game and my best for my team, that’s it.”
He said that, in some ways, it’s the nature of the position that he plays. Central and defensive midfielders are often charged with slowing down play and sticking to the creative playmakers, and sometimes tactical fouling is part of that.
There might not be anyone in the league who does that job better, according to head coach Brian Schmetzer, who has worked with Alonso since he joined the Sounders. “I love Ozzie, I love the way he plays, how he plays. I think if you look at Ozzie’s career, some people might argue the case, he’s the best defensive midfielder since 2009. That’s my belief.”
Schmetzer admits that Alonso occasionally has to rein it in, but it doesn’t tarnish his quality as a player. “There have been incidents over the years where maybe we could have said, let’s keep our composure and all that, but I’ll take the good with the bad. There’s a ton more good than ever bad.”
Despite the results of the ESPN poll, Schmetzer said he’s certain Alonso is highly respected amongst his peers. It’s certainly possible that the annoyance with Alonso’s style is simply because he’s better than anybody else at that position. Schmetzer also praised how much Alonso’s passing has improved since he arrived in MLS, making him a much more well-rounded player.
“When he was here in 09, it was raw energy,” Schmetzer said. “He was this feisty Cuban playing all out, all the time. But he’s refined his game, for sure.” As opposed to purely defensive tackler, Alonso has now become a key part of how Seattle starts attacks by being the conduit from the defense to the attack. “But he’s the first link in the chain connecting from back to front. You need that guy in there to connect good passes and get it to the next line.”
But no matter what others might think of him, there’s no doubting that Alonso is a team player, which is why he’s currently the team captain. He does his job, often quite well. Sure, he’ll slip up every once in a while and make a tackle in poor judgment or let his temper get the best of him — but like Schmetzer said, the good far outweigh the bad with Alonso. “If people think I’m like that, I don’t care. I can only play like I always have and do the best for my team.”