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Osvaldo Alonso is Sounders latest captain to enter Free Agency

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The honey badger enters the unknown.

Sounders vs. Union: Photos Photo Credit - MikeRussellFoto

After 10 years with the Seattle Sounders, Osvaldo Alonso is now a free agent. Originally a discovery signing out of the USL, Alonso will almost certainly need to take a pay cut wherever he ends up and possibly even a bigger one to remain in Seattle. As Alonso learns the market, the Sounders will be able to maintain contact to see if there is a price and role that suits their budget and 2019 desires.

While other players of comparable quality have tested MLS free agency, Alonso could become the highest profile one to actually switch teams. The likes of DaMarcus Beasley, Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando have all entered free agency only to re-sign with their current teams in recent years.

As a free agent, Alonso may choose to participate in the Re-Entry Draft. But MLS Free Agency, even with all the controls established on it via the Collective Bargaining Agreement, offers Alonso the most control over his future. Free Agency in MLS is particularly controlling for players over the maximum salary budget, a level Alonso’s been at since November 2013. It’s a designation that is almost certainly done for Ozzie.

In plain English, this means that if a player makes above the league maximum and his team offers just one dollar over that league-max budget charge, the player is no longer a free agent. If his team doesn’t offer that player the league maximum, he is a free agent, but no other team can offer above that max budget charge, either. - The Athletic

Alonso’s market will be limited by his age (33) and injury history. Over the past four seasons, he’s missed at least eight games in three of them and only played as many as 2,100 minutes once. This year he logged about 1,800 minutes while battling a variety of ailments. Injury also forced him to play through massive pain in MLS Cup 2016. Even with those injuries, Alonso was the captain, replacing the last captain of the team, Brad Evans, who left via free agency last year.

In terms of salary, age and ability, Alonso is most comparable to the likes of Diego Chara ($572,000) and Benny Feilhaber ($625,000). Those two are roughly the same age, not great interceptors, still solid tacklers, and keys to their side’s possession system. That’s a high price for the third-best defensive midfielder on a team, but there are some MLS clubs that might be able to use a player of that talent as a starter, including some playoff sides (Atlanta, LAFC).

In his time with the Sounders, Ozzie earned an MLS Cup, a Supporters’ Shield, four US Open Cups, a Best XI, and four All-Star appearances in his 2,183 playoff minutes and 23,380 regular season minutes. He scored 13 goals with 24 assists in MLS play. But what he was known for was destroying souls. Alonso rode the edge of what the Laws of the Game considered fair tackles, and he wouldn’t accept anyone’s protestations against him.

He is El Corazon, the heart.

For a vast majority of his time with the club the defense was only as successful as he was. From 2010 to 2012, and in 2016, Sounder at Heart readers considered him the Defensive Player of the Year. Few players have captured the imagination like Ozzie did.

If this is the end of Alonso’s time as a Sounder, it will go down as a glorious time. He is the last of the Originals, a group that launched the greatest expansion team in sports history. The Cuban became a U.S. citizen, but more than that he was a citizen of Seattle. This became home for him, and his connections to us will be felt for years, even after his playing days are done.

In 2009, he was one of the lowest paid players and over time he earned a Designated Player contract, earning more than $1 million in each of the past two seasons. Everything about Osvaldo Alonso screams success story. It’s like something out of a movie — defection from Cuba, star in a lower league, captiain, champion. His next chapter is unknown.

While Ozzie Alonso’s future in Seattle is uncertain, he’ll always be El Corazon. Our captain.