According to MLSSoccer.com’s Sam Stejskal, Minnesota United “have emerged as the frontrunners” to sign longtime Seattle Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso via a free agent deal. In subsequent reports, Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press and Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune both said Alonso’s signing was “likely.” Alonso was one of the biggest names left available through the league’s limited free agency, with reports earlier in the week linking him to FC Cincinnati.
Alonso has been a mainstay in Rave Green since the team came into MLS in 2009, racking up over 23,000 minutes in the league over the last decade. The 33-year old has made his name as an enforcer, averaging a yellow card every four games (0.238 cards per 96 minutes) and building up a reputation for hard tackles and persistence in attempting to win the ball. A four-time MLS All-Star, Alonso appeared in the league’s Best XI in 2012, a feat not achieved by a defense-first midfielder since. He’s also won six titles in his career: four U.S. Open Cups, the 2014 MLS Supporter’s Shield, and the 2016 MLS Cup.
The concern for the Loons has to be his durability. According to TransferMarkt, Alonso missed three or more games in a row with injuries five times since 2015, including a pair of stretches with hamstring injuries last year. That reportedly pushed Seattle to find a trade partner for him after the 2015 season, and he was conspicuously left unprotected by the Sounders for the 2017 Expansion Draft, where LAFC ultimately declined to pick him up. Following the end of the season, the Sounders decided to let him loose after a decade with the club, with general manager Garth Lagerwey saying the midfielder had “earned” the right to test the market.
With that being said, Alonso would fit in as an immediate starter for Minnesota United. With debate over Jan Gregus’s ability to play as a traditional defensive midfielder, Alonso would allow Gregus to either work in front of the back line in a more defensive double-pivot or move further forward as part of a midfield three with Rasmus Schuller. Adding in Alonso would also more than replace the stabilizing force that Sam Cronin provided in his brief period of health—if anything, Alonso would cut a more aggressive figure to challenge for balls, with Gregus giving enough height to get balls in the air.