TORONTO -- Seattle Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso is one of three remaining original Seattle Sounders, along with Zach Scott and Brad Evans, and on Saturday night he was able to lift the team's first Philip F. Anschutz trophy after they defeated Toronto FC in a penalty shootout.
Alonso wore the captain's armband for the team with Evans starting on the bench but it wasn't definite that he would be able to take the field himself. The 31-year-old was listed as questionable for the game with a left knee sprain after picking up the injury in the second leg of the Conference Championship against the Colorado Rapids.
Despite his injury, Alonso had a standout performance, protecting his backline from threats and providing a calm presence for a team that defended most of the game. He ended the game with six tackles and three interceptions while completing 80 percent of his passes.
"His determination on half a leg because he has a pulled tendon in his knee, it's just a testament on how much Ozzie wants to win and I can’t be any more proud or happy that he’s in our club," said Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer after the game. "Ozzie was never going to not play in this game. And that’s a testament to how tough he is. He had to get an injection, he had another injection at halftime just to keep himself in game. He’s just tough as nails."
Seattle's defenders were certainly appreciative of their captain's efforts, allowing Chad Marshall and Roman Torres to focus on clearing away dangerous balls. In total, the two center backs racked up 14 clearances.
“He’s unbelievable, he’s Ozzie Alonso," said Marshall. "He’s the heart and soul of this club. He gutted it out today, didn’t feel great, what he went through to be able to play is ridiculous, [I’m] so happy for him. He was a beast today as he always is.”
Prior to the season, there was talk of Alonso departing Seattle but he was brought back and had one of his best seasons in MLS. He finished in the top 10 in passes per 90 minutes, passing accuracy, recoveries per 90, tackles per 90 and duel success rate. Despite this, he was snubbed of a Best XI selection that some felt he deserved.
He was forced to play his first MLS Cup final not at 100 percent, but as goalkeeper Stefan Frei said after the game, there was little chance he would miss the game.
“I think you would have had to chop his leg off for him not to try. Some players might try and then just go through the motions but when Ozzie sets his mind on something he’s going to go 110 percent. I think he showed it again today. Like I said before, even with a banged up knee he’s still going into 50-50 tackles and busting his butt and we needed it to get all the way to PKs. I’m super proud of him.”
Cristian Roldan has partnered with Alonso in the center of midfield throughout a season in which he was named No. 24 on MLSsoccer.com's 24 Under 24 list. The midfielder was effusive in his praise for his captain after the game, saying that it's "mindblowing" that Alonso had not reached an MLS Cup final before.
"I think he’s the reason why we’re here and I couldn’t be happier for him.”