Alonso

Sent off: Oh Osvaldo Alonso, what have you done? (video)

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Seattle losing 1-0 in the second half at Portland was bad enough, but an incident that could cost their best midfielder the rest of the regular season? That’s made things so much worse for the Sounders, especially considering Osvaldo Alonso has nobody to blame but himself.

Around the 70th minute at JELD-WEN, after a half where referee Hilario Grajeda’s reluctance to blow his whistle saw the game’s physicality slowly escalate, Alonso swung an elbow into Portland midfielder Will Johnson’s face, possibly assuming his off-the-ball action would go unnoticed. But one of Grajeda’s assistants immediately ran onto the field during a moment when a John Kennedy Hurtado foul had sorted the teams into a number of small shoving matches. When the dust cleared, Alonso had a straight red card, leaving Seattle to chase an equalizer with 10 men.

The action is idiotic – the small mistake we’ve seen over and over from players who momentarily ignore the repercussions. Behind the play, Johnson came up behind Alonso and put his chest into the Sounder’s left shoulder, appearing to say something into his face. Alonso threw is left elbow, barely making contact with the Portland captain, sending Johnson to his knees. Minutes later, after order had started to be restored, Alonso ejected from the game.

Alonso’s damage wasn’t done. On his way to the locker room, Alonso had to be restrained from going after Corey Rockwell, the AR who reported Alonso’s foul. He then had words with the fourth official, Ricardo Salazar, before teammates managed to direct him toward the locker room. Suffice to say, Alonso did not leave the field in a timely manner, leaving all to speculate how long the all-important destroyer will be sidelined for the Sounders.

He’ll automatically miss time for the red card. Whether more time is tacked on because of the post-card outburst is up to the league’s Disciplinary Committee.

For some reason, this kind of trouble controversy seems to follow Will Johnson, who has also at the center of incidents involving Marc Burch and Alan Gordon in the last year. Regardless, Alonso’s been around long enough to know throwing an elbow into an opponent’s face will bring out a red card. He can’t let Johnson draw a dismissal from him.

Unfortunately, that decision will likely cost him the rest of the regular season.

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Osvaldo Alonso wins third straight Sounders MVP honor

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For the third year in a row, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso has been chosen as the Seattle Sounders’ Most Valuable Player, no mean feat on a team that includes three designated players (none of which are him), Eddie Johnson and Michael Gspurning. Yet it’s no surprise that Alonso, who finally broke into MLS’s Best XI this season, took the honor voted on by his teammates.

I say finally broke into the Best XI because although Alonso does seem to become more comfortable going forward with each passing season, he has basically been the same player over the last two or three seasons. Yet this year’s honor was his first. Hmm …

Whereas his 2009 introduction to MLS may have included more mistakes and destruction than the player we see now, since 2010 (when he started winning team MVP awards), he’s basically been this game-defining wrecking ball that allows the Sounders to have one of the league’s best defenses despite average defenders. He allows Sigi Schmid to abandon him in the middle knowing Alonso will go land mine whenever comes too close. He’s a badass.

Making comparisons to players who never played in MLS often obfuscated these types of conversations, but in terms of the impact Alonso has on games, he’s as influential as former Real Madrid/Chelsea/France destroyer Claude Makelélé. Only he’s started to provide more going forward.

So how has he not become a staple in the Best XI when he’s perpetually the league’s best at his position? I brought this up to a few people at MLS Cup, who put forth the following ideas:

  • Midfield has suddenly become deep, as evidenced by Kyle Beckerman (among others) not making the team.
  • Best XI isn’t for the best players. It’s for the best attackers with a few defenders thrown in for credibility.
  • Unless you’re a numbers guy, you can’t get into the Best XI playing for a West Coast team. There are too many start times (and, too many simultaneous start times) that are too late for East Coast voters to develop an affinity for a more nuanced performance.
  • Osvaldo Alonso has actually become overrated.

There’s some truth in all of these except number four. Perhaps Alonso’s biggest fans are louder than ever, but there’s still a deep underappreciation for what he brings to Seattle. The farther I get from Seattle, the less likely I am to find somebody who can articulate Alonso’s importance to Seattle (whether they agree on his quality or not).

Perhaps that’s because the raw numbers aren’t there. Perhaps it’s because (like any soccer player) it takes more than one game to gauge his impact. And perhaps it’s because Seattle’s games aren’t as accessible to most of the countries as, say, Dax McCarty’s.

But Alonso’s teammates know how valuable he is. That’s why he’s always team MVP.