By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)
From 2009-2014 there were few terrifying midfielders as deadly to theirs opponents and frustrating to opposing supporters as Osvaldo Alonso of the Seattle Sounders. Not only did he deliver crunching tackles into attackers but he also took away a fair number of them with the ball going the other way. To Seattle, and what they've aimed to accomplish, he’s been a vital cog.
The last two years have started to point towards a decline if only in terms of the statistics in which he had previously tended to collect. Coupled with that decline of numbers was a rise in fouls committed. These rise in fouls could be attributed to the referees calling him tighter with his noted reputation to be rough and tumble. The other explanation could be him losing a step and becoming slower creating an increase of rash decisions. This is something that we’ve seen with Kyle Beckerman and to a lesser extent Ricardo Clark.
2015 brought those whispers to the forefront with added health problems and a team-wide summer swoon that saw the traditional heavyweight Sounders in disarray and nearing the playoff drop--something the Sounders hadn't faced previously in their six seasons.
This offseason, rumors abounded that the Sounders were shopping him around the league. Either unable to find a suitable return or simply erroneous speculation, Garth Lagerway and company ultimately kept the midfielder in their 2016 plans.
While the Sounders have still had struggles this season, one of the few good things thus far about the 2016 season has been that the old Ozzie is back. Adding to that, he’s not just back doing the conventional “Ozzie”-type things.
While we’ve seen him all over the field before, there has always been a bit of a dull edge to his game when assisting in the attack. It’s not to say he hasn't had contributions but he certainly hasn't been previously an effective or consistent piece. His Lovel Palmer-esque shots that clear the uprights are a frustrating way of ending possession in the final third.
FC: Fouls committed
Despite the Sounders rather anemic attack this season, Alonso has been more effective and injected himself more in spite of those team shortcomings. While he’s not necessarily all over the pitch ripping away passes as he once was, he’s still very involved in the team's defense as a whole, with the second most defensive actions per 96 in his career and his highest possession and more shots created than ever before.
DFA: Defensive Actions, POS:, ShC: Shots Created
This version of Osvaldo Alonso is new. He’s not just the game changer defensively that he once was, though he certainly still has the ability to challenge any midfield and change an attacking approach, but now he is now showing the ability to be multi-dimensional. Something that Sigi Schmid has talked about getting out of him for the past few years.
Alonso is transforming his game and in doing so becoming a more complete midfielder. Very quietly Ozzie is putting himself back on the map of being the best defensive midfielder in MLS and while that’s not surprising considering what he’s done over his tenure he’s doing it by adding new and more dynamic elements to his game.
The Honey Badger is back. Be afraid, MLS. Be very afraid.