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Kicking the can on Osvaldo Alonso in England

Dec 19, 2012, 11:05 AM EDT

Osvaldo Alonso, Zach Scott AP

Right now, we have no reason to believe Osvaldo Alonso is going to be anywhere but Seattle come March.

That said, there’s a high profile team with decent resources who will get a good look at him over the next few days – a team that recently lost one of their best deep-lying midfielders to injury. And as most people in and around Seattle know, it’s difficult to get a long look at the Sounders’ destroyer and conclude something other than “this guy can help our team.” Perhaps he wouldn’t help West Ham United as much as Seattle, but he’d still help.

But such effects are zero sum games in the soccer world. There aren’t two Ozzie Alonsos, so if he were somewhere other than Seattle, the Sounders would have a significant hole to fill.

That might be an understatement. Think through Major League Soccer’s players and how they’re deployed by their teams and you won’t come up with a more important player that Osvaldo Alonso. That doesn’t necessarily make him the best player in the league or a person who’d be as important for other franchises. But for Seattle, he’s beyond significant. He’s vital.

Were he to leave, Seattle would have to find a new way to protect their defense. The team allowed the second-fewest goals in Major League Soccer last season, yet their best defender was Jeff Parke. How does that happen? Part of it was strong play from Michael Gspurning, but a lot of teams with good goalkeepers and still concede in bunches (as Dan Kennedy’s PTSD can attest). When you see the work Alonso does keeping action from hitting Seattle’s decent-if-average back liners, who realize he’s the big reason why one of the league’s better defenses doesn’t need standout defenders.

Alonso plays an important if less vital role in attack, one that was highlighted as Designated Player Christian Tiffert struggled through his first months in Major League Soccer. As the German import adapted to his new, more physical competition, Alonso persisted as the man that managed Seattle’s play in the middle third. When Brad Evans moved to central midfield at the end of the season, Seattle’s dependence on Ozzie persisted. Even if the 27-year-old is still more land mine than delivery man, he’s developed into a key component of Seattle’s transition.

If Seattle lost him, Tiffert would have to become the player they thought they were getting from Kaiserslautern. That’s likely to happen. What’s unlikely to happen is getting one player who can replace Alonso’s defensive contributions. With Parke now in Philadelphia, that becomes a particularly pressing concern.

Would that mean changing to two deep midfielders? Players attempting to do a job Alonso previously did on his own? Maybe the formation stays the same but the tactics change, head coach Sigi Schmid becoming more conscious about providing help to whomever steps into Alonso’s boots?

Or maybe it’s not something Seattle has to worry about at all. Even as he enjoys London’s days of proposed industrial action, Alonso’s still highly unlikely to move.

At least, he’s highly unlikely to move right now.

  1. charliej11 - Dec 19, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    There is plenty of time for AO to move to West Ham, not like they aren’t going to suck the next couple of years too.

  2. Sometimes Interesting - Dec 19, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    Work permit?

    • Richard Farley - Dec 19, 2012 at 12:13 PM

      Obviously, nobody knows, but I’d be surprised if it was a problem for him. He doesn’t have a national team to play for. The appeals panel would recognize that and not punish him for being Cuban.

      • trip253 - Dec 19, 2012 at 12:58 PM

        FYI – Osvaldo Alsonso has American Citizenship now. He became a U.S. Citizen back in June of this year and is currently barred from playing for the USMNT because of past games he played for Cuba.

      • Richard Farley - Dec 19, 2012 at 1:00 PM

        Yep, but the work permit thing is mostly about international caps regardless of citizenships …

        I just don’t see it as an issue. Appeals are pretty frequently won now, and as Alonso’s international situation is political (not coach’s selections), I’ll eat somebody’s Man United scarf is he were denied while still a Best XI dude in MLS.

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