SEATTLE – Osvaldo Alonso’s World Cup dreams were always a bit of a waiting game.
First, it was to become a United States citizen. Then it was for the US Soccer Federation to file the appropriate paperwork with FIFA. Slowly, but surely, those things came to pass.
But there was one more obstacle he needed to clear before he could even pursue the dream that virtually every aspiring soccer player shares: Alonso needed Cuba to release him. The defensive midfielder was cap-tied to the nation of his birth after making 16 international appearances.
Almost two years after Alonso earned US citizenship and seven years after defecting during the Gold Cup, the wait continues.
“At this point, I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Alonso admitted to MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “It’s been difficult, with Cuba, with the federation, so it’s not going happen. I have to be mentally ready to be with the Sounders, play my game and forget about the US national team. If the opportunity comes later, I’ll take it. But for now, I’ve forgotten about it.”
Around this time a year ago, there was some hope that Alonso may be granted a release that would allow him to play for the United States. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann had approached him about the possibility and even spoke to the press about possibly bringing him in to compete for a spot in the midfield.
But those hopes were slowly dashed, as Cuba never made any official response.
“It’s been two years waiting for FIFA, Cuba and waiting for the paper,” said Alonso, who now says he’s 100-percent fit after battling various injuries early in the season. “I’m frustrated, talking with some people here, talking with some people there, nothing happens. I’m very upset. But I need to be ready to be here.”
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Although there’s always a possibility that something could change, Alonso would be 32 by the time the next World Cup rolls around. For a player who relies on a tireless work ethic and dogged pursuit of the ball, this summer’s tournament was probably his last best chance to appear on soccer’s biggest stage.
“I’ve been thinking a lot,” Alonso said. “It was a great opportunity for me, having never played in the World Cup. This was my opportunity to come here, get a chance to be on the roster for the United States. So, it’s going to be tough watching the World Cup.”