TUKWILA, Wash. – Seattle Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso found himself unable to contribute to his team’s last two playoff runs due to injuries--and this offseason, briefly surrounded by trade rumors. But at the outset of 2016, this fan favorite very much resembles his old self.
Largely known for his skills as a defensive midfielder and facilitator, Alonso scored his first goal in 96 matches against Real Salt Lake on March 12. And that was just part of a run of strong, early-season form that has made him a notable bright spot in the midst of Seattle’s 0-3-0 start.
“I think [Alonso’s] attitude and approach has been really, really good,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said this week. “There’s an energy level from him that is like the Ozzie Alonso that was the MVP of our team for multiple years. When a player sees that, it’s a lot easier for him to buy in to what we’re asking him to do.”
Alonso’s resurgent start might have more to it than just his improved physical condition.
The 30-year-old is coming off an offseason in which he made a trip to his home country of Cuba for the first time since 2007. Last season, he also enjoyed a well-publicized reunion in Seattle with his father, whom he hadn’t seen since he defected from Cuba to pursue professional soccer in America at the age of 21. Alonso says both of those factors have helped put him in a good place mentally.
“It was great to be back in my home country and hang out with friends, go to the beach and have a good time down there," Alonso told MLSsoccer.com after the Sounders' Thursday practice.
Cuba made international headlines with this week’s historic visit by President Barack Obama, who became the first U.S. president to visit the country in almost 90 years. For Alonso, his own trip back to his home country and the news of Obama’s are part of a gradual, yet noticeable shift in the historically tense dynamic between the countries.
“It was great to see President Obama go to Cuba and speak there,” Alonso said. “The relationship is getting better and better between both countries. I think the visit will be good for Cuba. I hope things can keep improving.”
So far, Alonso’s health and positive mindset have paid dividends for Seattle on the field--and could well help define the Sounders' ultimate fate this season.
“Right now, I’m 100 percent,” Alonso said. “I’m feeling great and ready to give everything I have for the team. I hope I can keep it like that for the rest of the season.”