Osvaldo Alonso

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Five players LA FC should consider selecting in MLS Expansion Draft

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Los Angeles FC will take another big step towards its entry into Major League Soccer next season on Tuesday when the 2017 MLS Expansion Draft commences.

Bob Bradley and his side will have the opportunity to select up to five players during the Expansion Draft, however, the team can only choose one player per club.

[ MORE: Rimando, Pontius among MLS free agents ]

MLS sides had to select their list of 11 protected players by Sunday evening in order to put them off limits from LA FC. Any player not protected by their club is available for selection.

After exploring some of the names of those left unprotected, PST takes a look at five players LA FC should select in Tuesday’s Expansion Draft.

Maxime Chanot — (CB from New York City FC)

He’s 28 years old, and helped build one of the better central defensive partnerships in MLS last season with Alex Callens, prior to his injury. NYCFC could be banking on the fact that his injury will prevent him from getting back to his previous level, but there’s no question Chanot is the sort of player that could anchor the LA FC back line for five-plus seasons.

David Ousted — (GK from Vancouver Whitecaps)

Made 90-plus saves in four of his five seasons with the Whitecaps, and overall one of the top goalkeepers in MLS. The Denmark native has recorded 36 shutouts in his time with the Cascadia side, and helped guide the Whitecaps to the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference in 2017. With Real Salt Lake not picking up Nick Rimando’s contract, the veteran USMNT shot-stopper could also be an option for LA FC, however, Ousted is younger and arguably better at this stage of his career.

Marco Urena — (FWD from San Jose Earthquakes)

The 27-year-old may not be on many people’s radars, but the Costa Rican had five goals and three assists last season for the Quakes. Urena was tied for second on the team in goals, and provides a solid veteran player on a new LA FC side. While Carlos Vela will be the focal point up front for the newcomers, Urena is the sort of player that could player a very important supporting role.

Osvaldo Alonso — (MID from Seattle Sounders)

The Designated Player contract could scare LA FC away because Alonso is 32 years old, but this is the type of guy you want in the center of the park. For nine seasons, Alonso has anchored the Sounders midfield, and he does all the dirty work that could very well help the transition of the expansion side’s back line in 2018.

Chris Tierney — (DEF from New England Revolution

Similar to Alonso, Tierney isn’t going to be the sexiest pick, but he’s had the MLS experience, and he’s likely a player that could move on from a team where he’s spent his entire career. His versatility in the midfield and defensively allows Tierney to be a highly-coveted asset, especially as a player that is capable of delivering a quality cross from down the left flank.

“Pretty unreal, a fairy tale” — Alonso, Marshall celebrate Sounders title

@NicholasMendola
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TORONTO — Talk about penalty kicks all you want, and definitely talk about that save, but Seattle’s formative heart kept Toronto FC’s vaunted attack off the scoreboard to win its first MLS Cup final.

Veterans Chad Marshall, Osvaldo Alonso, Stefan Frei, and Roman Torres simply got the job done against Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and the high-flying Reds.

“We knew what a great offensive team they are,” Marshall said. “Giovinco and Jozy are incredible. The amount of goals they put up this postseason is pretty ridiculous, so to keep them off the board for 120 minutes is incredible.”

[ MLS CUP: Seattle wins in PKs | 3 things ]

The man in front of him, Alonso, was a prime reason for that. Countless connecting passes and perfect spacing limited TFC’s chances with the ball. After an MVP caliber season, you could argue that Alonso deserved just as much of a shout for MLS Cup MVP as winner Frei.

“In the final you have to give everything you have to win,” Alonso said. “I step on the field to play for my team, play for myself, and play for my family. And I think I did that.”

Both Alonso and Marshall spoke of the moments following Torres’ match-winning PK, as the Sounders crew flew down to pitch to celebrate in front of a rave green and blue visitors section high above BMO Field.

[ MORE: Bradley apologizes to fans ]

[ MORE: Altidore, Frei on that save ]

“I think I threw my back out on the run to Roman, and he flew right by me,” Marshall said. “It was just nuts. I lost my voice in a matter of 20 seconds. It’s just so exciting.”

Alonso was filled with pride for the fans at the game, and the ones back in Seattle who stood by the Sounders after a midseason coaching change.

“They deserved this, the trophy, because they are always there for us,” Alonso said. “Even when we were down at the bottom of the table. This trophy means a lot for me.”

Marshall admitted the words weren’t coming to him, even an hour after the game.

“I don’t know if I can. It’s an incredible feeling, from where we in July, the Kansas City game, to this moment right now, it’s pretty unreal, a fairy tale.”

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“I like a good pass” — Osvaldo Alonso as undercover MLS MVP

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In a world focused on non-traditional statistics, the most complete and valuable player in this Major League Soccer season is Osvaldo Alonso.

It’s a simple enough statement that may seem shocking, considering the work and prowess of those who have staked claims to the Landon Donovan MVP Award.

[ MORE: Klinsmann unafraid ]

Sebastian Giovinco and David Villa possess electric skill sets and otherworldly production, and are instant all-timers for the nascent league. Next, take the historic traditional numbers posted by the Red Bulls’ Sacha Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips, eye-popping stuff.

Then there’s Alonso.

The 31-year-old Seattle Sounders midfielder wasn’t going to get an MVP nod thanks to the weight given to goals and assists (in every league around the globe), but he should be a household name by now.

Not all of that is down to statistics. Alonso has been perhaps the perfect mate for Michael Bradley in the United States men’s national team’s midfield, but has not been given the chance despite earning citizenship in 2012. Alonso defected from Cuba in 2007 after earning 16 caps for the national team, and the island nation has not granted his request for a release (He doesn’t believe it will ever come, either).

As much as a green card should have played a role in his stardom, perhaps it’s yellow and red cards that cost him votes from around the league. Alonso is a midfield menace who plays as if winning the ball grants him access to oxygen.

[ VIDEO: Stunning NCAA comeback ]

FC Dallas forward Maximiliano Urruti (37) and Seattle Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (6) compete for a ball along the sidelines during the first half of an MLS soccer western conference semifinal playoff match Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 in Frisco, Texas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)
(AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

“My position is different than the forward, but I try to play for me and for the team,” Alonso said.

“My type of game is keeping the ball and is made on winning the ball. I don’t score a lot of goals or do a lot of assists, but I try to provide the rest of my team. We’ve got a lot of players who can score a lot of goals and I’m very happy for them. I’m doing the job the coach told me to do, and I’m very happy to win that way.”

Alonso keeps the ball better than anyone in MLS, at least this season. His 91 percent pass accuracy was only met by Darlington Nagbe, and Alonso completed 20 percent more of his passes than his Cascadia Cup rival. That 60 percent completion mark was also the best in the league.

Rather than risk boredom with a bevy of further stats on tackles, interventions, and passing, let’s look at a chart that sums up his performance from advanced stats site Squawka. Amongst players who made more than 20 appearances this season, Alonso is second only to Giovinco in performance score (both are not MVP finalists, which is inexcusable).

Seattle Sounders Squawka.com
Squawka.com

What’s worth noting, though, is how many other members of the Top Ten earned their keep with a heavy contribution from one area. Alonso is in double digits in all three categories: 27th in defense, 48th in offense, first (by far) in possession.

That last number matters a lot to the MVP suggestion, too. Alonso’s 13.5 score is more than five points better than the closest competitor (Real Salt Lake’s Javier Morales).

To sum it up in a colloquial fashion, Alonso is a boss. Given his hard-nosed demeanor, you might think he loves digging into opponents and craves contact. That’s not necessarily wrong, but his answer to the question of what gives him the most joy is interesting.

“For me, I like a good pass. Take the ball from the offense and open the game from the back. But everything I do, I like to do.”

[ MORE: Relegation fears for Leicester City? ]

The love for a game and seeking out a better future for himself is what gave him the impetus to risk it all in defecting from Cuba, famously slipping away from his national teammates on a stop to an American big box store a decade ago.

“It was tough when I came here to make a decision because in that time, it was not sure if I would come back or see my family again,” Alonso said. “I’m so lucky that I did that and I play soccer because not everybody can make that decision to leave behind family, friends, everything in Cuba and come to a new country for a game.”

It’s allowed him to start and raise a family in his new country, one in which he wants to do little else besides play soccer and spend time with his family.

CHESTER, PA - SEPTEMBER 16: Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso #6 of the Seattle Sounders FC heads the ball over forward Sebastien Le Toux #11 of the Philadelphia Union during the 2014 U.S. Open Cup Final at PPL Park on September 16, 2014 in Chester, Pennsylvania. The Sounders won 3-1. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Alonso’s immigrant story a clear success, there have been repercussions like the aforementioned lack of a release from Cuba. Even at 31, he’s the player the United States needs right now in its MNT set-up. Alonso has spent years waiting for a response from Cuba, and fans even started a Change.org petition hoping for intervention from then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Still, Alonso is fairly sure the door is closed, saying it’s “I don’t know but I don’t think so. It’s going to be difficult.”

[ MORE: Offseason moves paying off for Newcastle ]

So he’ll focus on leading his upstart Seattle Sounders onward into MLS glory. Alonso is one of the few players who was thriving with the Sounders before Sigi Schmid left the club, and his stock didn’t tumble once Brian Schmetzer took the reigns. With Obafemi Martins’ sudden departure and Clint Dempsey‘s heart troubles, Alonso has underscored the adjective in “Most Valuable Player”.

He’ll take the field again in Tuesday’s first leg of the Western Conference final, battling with Jermaine Jones and the Colorado Rapids.

“I’m very lucky to be in this team for a long time, but my main thing is to give everything I have for the team I have,” Alonso said.

Kickoff is 10 p.m. EDT.

MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 1-2 Seattle Sounders (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): It’s always sweet to knock off one of your bitter rivals, but keeping them out of the playoffs takes things to a different level. The Vancouver Whitecaps were officially eliminated from the postseason on Sunday night following their defeat against the Seattle Sounders. While the play on the field was overshadowed at times by strange actions from two of the game’s goalscorers, the match was everything you’d want from the Cascadia foes. Even without Clint Dempsey and Nicolas Lodeiro, the Sounders moved one step closer to clinching a playoff spot in the Western Conference, leaping to fifth place.

[ MORE: Which USMNT players have most at stake in friendlies? ]

Three four moments that mattered

25′ – Morales converts from the PK spot — It was brilliant play from Alphonso Davies to earn the penalty kick. From there, Pedro Morales knew exactly what to do.

39′ — Alonso pulls the Sounders level before halftime — Even without Clint Dempsey and Nicolas Lodeiro, the Sounders are moving the ball just fine.

53′ — Whitecaps go down a man — It was uncalled for and more importantly Morales likely cost the Whitecaps a spot in the postseason.

81′ — Evans seals the deal for the visitors — Brad Evans was all over the field on Sunday night. His reward: smashing home this penalty and knocking the Whitecaps out of the playoffs. 

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Osvaldo Alonso

Goalscorers: Pedro Morales (25′), Osvaldo Alonso (39′), Brad Evans (81′)

MLS Snapshots: Montreal Impact 3-0 NY Red Bulls | RSL 2-1 Seattle Sounders

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The game in 100 words (or less): Attention, folks: the Montreal Impact are really, really good, with or without Didier Drogba, as they showed once again in Saturday’s 3-0 hammering of the reigning Supporters’ Shield-winning New York Red Bulls. Dominic Oduro, Ignacio Piatti and Anthony Jackson-Hamel provided the goals, while the Red Bulls failed to find the back of the net for the second straight game after leading the league in goals scored last season (just four shots on target through two games). Piatti (three goals and two assists through two games) looks the player likeliest to challenge Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco for Golden Boot and MVP honors this year.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of Week 2 ]

Three moments that mattered

58′ — Oduro gets in behind, finishes past Robles — With Drogba once again unavailable on Saturday, Oduro got his second straight start and center forward and scored for the second straight game.

71′ — Piatti gets in behind, makes it 2-0 — Gideon Baah made his MLS debut in generally impressive fashion last week for the Red Bulls. This week, he was the Impact’s whipping boy, having committed the fatal turnover on Oduro’s opener, and then getting caught in acres of space as Piatti waltzed into the penalty area and fired Montreal to a 2-0 lead.

90+4′ — Jackson-Hamel slots it past Robles to complete the rout — Harry Shipp’s delicately chipped through ball put Jackson-Hamel into all kinds of space inside the Red Bulls penalty area, where the 22-year-old coolly poked his first-time effort past Luis Robles for the emphatic exclamation point goal.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Ignacio Piatti

Goalscorers: Oduro (58′), Piatti (71′), Jackson-Hamel (90+4′)


The game in 100 words (or less): If you spent two hours of your Saturday afternoon soldiering through the Real Salt Lake 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders, I am truly sorry. Hopefully you allowed me to watch this one so you didn’t have to. Osvaldo Alonso scored an unattractive goal — his first in 96 games — just before the half-hour mark, Sunny Obayan equalized just before halftime, and Jamison Olave scored the most “Jamison Olave” goal to snatch all three points in the 86th minute. The Sounders are without a single point through two games to begin the 2016 season, while RSL were mere seconds last week from taking all six points to open the season.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of Week 2 ]

Three moments that mattered

28′ — Alonso pokes home a rebound to make it 1-0 — Nick Rimando made an extremely Rimando-like reaction save to stop Nelson Valdez’s initial effort off the cross from Joevin Jones, but the ball sat up ever so nicely for Alonso at the back post, where the Cuban poked home with ease.

43′ — Sunny heads home from a corner, makes it 1-1 — Perfectly placed corner kick by Joao Plata, perfectly executed header from 11 yards out by Sunny. Textbook stuff from RSL, and poor marking from the Sounders.

86′ — Olave wins the jump ball, heads home for 2-1 — From Plata’s overhit free kick, Juan Manuel “El Burrito” Martinez did the simplest things: he sent the ball back into the penalty area with his first touch. Olave clashed with goalkeeper Tyler Miller in mid-air, and the Colombian brute came out on top, as he often does in aerial duels.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Juan Manuel Martinez

Goalscorers: Alonso (28′), Sunny (43′), Olave (86′)