There’s no doubt: Today’s regular-season finale is going to be emotional ... and bit weird.
Not so much for the players — they’ve already played Minnesota United this year. But for the fans especially, the return of El Corazon will surely be marked with emotion ... at least until the whistle sounds.
Osvaldo Alonso’s place in Sounders — and MLS — history is certainly assured. Winner of six major trophies during his Sounders tenure — including the long coveted MLS Cup in 2016 — Alonso was voted a member of the all-time Sounders best XI, and has an argument for the best player at his position in the history of the league.
In 2018, he made 25 appearances — 21 of them starts — for the Sounders, and while maybe not at his peak, performed well for the team. However, the writing was on the wall with players like Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris up for big raises (which they’ve more than justified this season), and a number of other players on TAM contracts.
Something had to give.
So the Sounders declined to offer Alonso a new deal, allowing him to test free agency. Or at least MLS’s version of it. Alonso signed a two-year deal with Minnesota, and has shown to be reasonably durable this year, starting 26 games for the Loons including the matchup against the Sounders in Minnesota earlier this year.
But it’s different going against your former teammates away from the place you called home for 10 years, and so the Sounders know that it will be a different experience on Sunday. That said, the theme was the same speaking to a group of Sounders players: Alonso is a team legend, but he stands in the way of the Sounders and the second seed.
Some Sounders players, and head coach Brian Schmetzer, spoke about Alonso’s return at training yesterday.
Midfielder Cristian Roldan:
“It adds a bit of flavor to the game, Ozzie returning. Ozzie is a special player in the history of this franchise and he’s going to mean a lot going forward. But at this point, he is a Minnesota player so we have to prepare like he is [on] the opposing team. For my four years, he was such a big player for me personally. Such an influential and nice person in the locker room. We hope nothing but the best but we have to take care of business.”
Forward Jordan Morris:
“He’s an absolute legend here, and he’s done so much for this club and I’m sure the fans are excited to see him again and we are too. Once we step on the field we’re competitors and we’re fighting for the same thing and I think everyone understands that. He’s always going to such a special part of this club’s history.”
Head coach Brian Schmetzer:
“Ozzie was a massive part of this franchise for many years and we certainly miss him. We got to seem him in a different uniform in Minnesota so the shock is not quite as much as some of the fans seeing him walk out as the captain of Minnesota. It will be an emotional day. It’s important to acknowledge Ozzie and what he’s done, but our focus is absolutely positively going to be on the game.”
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei:
“He’s always El Corazon and holds a special place in the franchise and everybody’s hearts. I expect a bundle of energy and fire like he always was. That’s one thing Ozzie always gave you. He played an important role not only in the beginning of the franchise but during my time and the later parts of this team when we slowly started to turn into a possession-based team. Nothing but love for him, but we’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game against him.”
Leftback Brad Smith:
“He was a big part of this club, he was a very good player when he was here, and I enjoyed playing with him. But he’s gone now and we’ve got our team and he’s he’s moved on and so have we. We’re all friends outside of football, but the game’s the game and we’ve gotta do what we need to do.”