Osvaldo Alonso and the Seattle Sounders look for vindication against the San Jose Earthquakes this weekend. The team will open the upper bowl of Century Link Field for the the match, so 60,000+ frayed-edged fans will be out in force. Despite their recent run of excellence, the Sounders suffered a debacle last weekend against New England. Anxiety is heightened due to the loss of our three USMNT players, Dempsey, Evans, and Yedlin, for the next month. The Sounders, desperate to redeem themselves on the pitch, must do so without an ideal lineup.
It would be unfair to say the Sounders will field a JV team against San Jose. With Obafemi Martins, Chad Marshall and Marco Pappa on the pitch the Sounders are still extremely talented. And the one player who IS the Sounders will still be wearing Rave Green on Saturday.
Osvaldo Alonso played in his 150th MLS match last weekend, setting the franchise record. From his milestone Open Cup goal (when he just tore lose from the midfield and made that massive run to score that scorcher) to his consistently dogged excellence, Ozzie, more than any other player, defines the MLS iteration of the Seattle Sounders. This wasn’t a foregone conclusion of how history would settle. Fredy Montero could’ve been the franchise, or Kasey Keller. Now it’s clear it was always Ozzie. He was my first visceral connection to the Sounders. As you know I am an NFL man, and it was easy to see Ozzie as a marauding middle linebacker. He was the first player on the team I fell in love with. I can’t call him Mr. Sounder (as that would be Brad Evans), and I don’t want to say “mascot,” as that’d be demeaning to Ozzie. I think La Barra Fuerza Verde said it best, “Ozzie es el corazon de los Sounders.” He is the heart of this team and he sets its tone.
Despite the universal adoration he receives, few people realize how important Ozzie truly is to the Sounders. On the pitch and in the locker room, Ozzie is a leader. For example, his teammates controversially chose Ozzie take the penalty kick against the Philadelphia Union. The Sounders were behind and they needed that goal. Brad Evans, Clint Dempsey and Gonzalo Pineda are all world-class penalty takers, but his peers chose Ozzie. The kick didn’t work out, but the decision-making process is telling. Ozzie wanted to celebrate his family and the Sounders wanted to honor him. This team respects and loves Ozzie and wants him to know it.
The front office also appreciates Ozzie. GM Adrian Hanauer fittingly promoted him to a DP contract in the offseason. The exact terms of the deal were undisclosed, but the contract is a “long-term deal” that should keep #6 in Seattle for a long time. Which is great because Ozzie has the talent to play on a national team or overseas, and before the financial incentive, he may have wanted to try his luck in Europe or South America. Now in Seattle, Ozzie will have a career for life with the Sounders family.
Ozzie is building his Sounders legacy. We are all lucky to see him in his prime, and I look forward to telling my grandkids about the glory that was that Honey Badger. This Saturday in San Jose, I look forward to Ozzie adding a new passage to the lore of #6.