If the Seattle Sounders are to win a second MLS Cup in 2018, a fully fit Osvaldo Alonso is imperative.
Admittedly betting doesn’t always go to plan, but you can well imagine the Sounders challenging once again for the MLS Cup. Their combination of coaching, talent and experience means it would be no surprise if they play in a third consecutive final.
However, whether the Rave Green actually win a second MLS Cup is another thing altogether. One of the major deciding factors will be Osvaldo Alonso.
Some analysts and fans out there may not believe Alonso is a necessity anymore. After all, save for 16 minutes, he played no part in the Sounders’ playoff journey to their rematch with Toronto FC at BMO Field. (Further, his 24 league starts were his second-fewest during the last seven seasons.)
While this is true, where it doesn’t hold up is in the final itself. While TFC were arguably the better team in both games, Alonso’s absence in the second clash was evident.
Certainly, a frustrated and ineffective Sebastian Giovinco being substituted was one of the defining images of the first MLS Cup final clash between Toronto FC and the Sounders. And Alonso was the main reason for this.
There was plenty of talk about how much Cristian Roldan grew during the 2017 season and with good reason. In many respects, he is a younger version of Alonso with more speed to be able to run from box to box.
While the two players have similar traits they are two different players that are a vital part of the Sounders blueprint to make a third consecutive MLS Cup appearance.
When the Rave Green won the MLS Cup in 2016, it was hailed as Alonso’s best season of his career in Seattle. He won his fifth team MVP award while leading MLS in tackles and duels won. (He even equaled his career high of three goals and set a new personal best with four assists.)
The 2017 season was considered a step back by the 32-year-old. This was no doubt impacted by ongoing niggles and injuries that eventually took their toll. A healthy Alonso is a key to Sounders success, the question is how can the team keep the aging midfielder healthy. Tenacious tackling, ability to intercept passes with in your face air tight marking are a vital part of Alonso’s game.
When injured the intimidation factor is limited rendering the distributive midfielders effectiveness.
No doubt a physical, high energy style of play is going to take its toll on your body at times, making any extra rest that much more important. The quandary for Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer is how and when can you rest the disruptive midfielder and continue to get results?
If you’re among those who are still convinced the Sounders can win another MLS Cup without the defensive midfielder, answer this question. How did you initially react when you started reading news, that he was recently sent to Los Angeles to see a medical specialist?
Can you honestly say you weren’t at least a little bit concerned? (Further, it’s possible the Sounders may have to start the regular season without Alonso.)
Given his age, we’re all keenly aware the Cuban native’s time in Seattle is drawing to a close. However, if you truly believe the Sounders don’t need him to win a second MLS Cup in 2018, you’re either extremely naive or in denial.