TUKWILA, Wash. — For Seattle Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, the Audi 2016 MLS Cup playoffs represent an opportunity to set the record straight.
Alonso was sidelined with injuries for Seattle’s playoff runs the past two seasons, unable to contribute as the Sounders were unceremoniously eliminated by the LA Galaxy in 2014 and FC Dallas a season ago. Those durability issues were followed by offseason trade rumors, leaving one of the franchise’s most productive and popular players with an uncertain future.
Now, ahead of Seattle’s Knockout Round match against Sporting Kansas City at CenturyLink Field on Thursday (10 pm ET, FSI, UniMás), the only question surrounding Alonso is where the Sounders would be without him.
“Physically, [Alonso] is great. You guys can have seen it,” Sounders interim head coach Brian Schmetzer said after Seattle’s practice Tuesday. “He’s pushed his name into MVP conversation for sure, for our team. He’s playing at a very high level.”
Alonso also says he’s ready to take on what can potentially be a lengthy MLS playoff schedule, telling reporters as much following a training session last week.
“I feel good,” he said. “Physically and mentally, I’m ready to go.”
One contributing factor to Alonso’s consistency this season, Schmetzer said, has been the work he’s done with Seattle’s renowned sports science department. Specifically, Schmetzer credited Sounders Director of Performance & Sports Science Dave Tenney for coming up with a detailed training regimen that helped keep the 30-year-old healthy.
“Dave and his staff have done a really good job with Ozzie,” Schmetzer said. “But it’s also Ozzie making sure that he actually does what they’re telling him to do. We’ve made sure he’s been a good pro and what Dave’s outlined, Ozzie’s completed.”
The result has been a standout 2016 campaign in which Alonso has been arguably the club’s most reliable player. Few players in MLS can replicate his two-way skillset as a bruising, lockdown defender, combined with his prowess as a devastatingly accurate and precise facilitator out of the midfield.
If the Sounders are to make it past SKC on Thursday and make a run at the franchise’s first-ever MLS Cup, a healthy Alonso figures to play a critical role.
“I think the team can feed off that when you have players like that on the pitch,” Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei said Tuesday. “We have guys who will not shy away from anything, will go to the very, very end. I think that’s contagious and it rubs off on [other] players.
"Ozzie is a perfect example of that. He’s vital to this team.”