SEATTLE – The Seattle Sounders are again facing life without Osvaldo Alonso after he picked up a quad strain during Wednesday night's 3-0 victory against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Which isn't as tough a blow as it used to be, thanks to Gustav Svensson.
Yes, the 32-year-old captain Alonso remains one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS history, able to cover seemingly limitless ground to cut out and disrupt opposing counter attacks. His dual threat ability to initiate Seattle’s attack with pinpoint passing accuracy creates a unique skill-set that the Sounders have historically been hard-pressed to replicate without him.
But this season, when Alonso was forced out of action earlier with a sprained knee, it was Svensson who largely filled the void, and who did so admirably. And with Wednesday’s injury news, it may be up to the Swedish international to deputize once again.
“I would hesitate to just compare Gustav to a replacement for Ozzie because in his own right, he got called in again for the Swedish national team,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said after the win over Vancouver. “He’s a good player. Where he fits in our team and what we’ve done with him this season is a testament to his versatility.
“Whether he played as a center back down in Dallas or when he came tonight and really helped Marshall on the back line, he’s a quality player. I wouldn’t say he’s anybody’s replacement, I would say he’s a very handy peace to have and I hope he stays here for a long time.”
Svensson has sneakily emerged as arguably the most valuable acquisition of Seattle’s last offseason. And although he's not a like-for-like replacement for Alonso, he just might represent the best contingency plan the Sounders have had in their MLS era.
The continued standout form of goalkeeper Stefan Frei should also help the Sounders endure without their captain. He made a highlight-reel save against Whitecaps forward Fredy Montero on a long-distance free kick on Wednesday that Schmetzer said might have been better than his iconic swat of Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore in last December’s MLS Cup.
“That kept us in the game,” Schmetzer said. “I’m sure Fredy thought that was going in. But he has consistently come up with big saves throughout his career and he has 11 shutouts now which ties him Kasey Keller, which is a big accomplishment. He continues to impress, he continues to amaze us and I’m very pleased to have him.”