TUKWILA, Wash. – There was a time this offseason when Ozzie Alonso’s future with the Seattle Sounders appeared to be in doubt.
Now, the 30-year-old Seattle stalwart says he’s ready to get back to business as usual.
Alonso has starred for the Sounders since the club’s inaugural MLS season in 2009, establishing himself in the years since as one of the team’s most indispensable players, and one of the league’s most consistent and versatile two-way midfielders.
But ill-timed injuries (a groin in 2014 and a hamstring last season) have kept him sidelined for the majority of the Sounders’ playoff runs the last two seasons. Those durability concerns – along with his substantial salary – led to a whirlwind of trade speculation surrounding Alonso in the weeks following Seattle’s Western Conference semifinal defeat at the hands of FC Dallas last season.
However, as the Sounders’ preseason training camp rolls on, Alonso hasn’t gone anywhere and appears primed to factor heavily into the team’s 2016 plans after all.
“I’m here,” Alonso told reporters following Seattle’s Wednesday practice at Starfire Soccer Complex. “That’s the most important thing for us. I’m here and I’m focused on the season for Seattle.”
Alonso also called himself “100 percent fit,” which would put him ahead of pace compared to last year’s preseason when he was still rehabbing from offseason groin surgery.
- Find more coverage of the Rave Green at SoundersFC.com
Seattle might be grooming a potential contingency plan at the position to take pressure off Alonso in 20-year-old Cristian Roldan, the team’s first-round MLS SuperDraft pick last season who Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said this week “can play the Ozzie role.”
But the real objective for Seattle now becomes figuring out how to keep Alonso healthy through the regular season and physically ready to go for a potential postseason run, something Schmid says he’s already thinking about.
“Just making sure we rest [Alonso] in some games, that we spot him at the right times,” Schmid said on Wednesday. “I think his commitment so far has been very good in terms of doing the work that he needs to do off the field because there’s a lot of work he needs to do to help maintain himself and be injury-free. But we also are responsible for pulling the right times to maybe give him a break as we move forward in the season.”