Osvaldo Alonso of Seattle Sounders, Danny Barrera of Cal FC take TheCup.us Player of the Tournament honors
In an open vote that saw six different players names selected on ballots for the TheCup.us Player of the Tournament, it was five-time finalist Osvaldo Alonso of the Seattle Sounders that received the honor while Cal FC’s Danny Barrera was an overwhelming choice as TheCup.us Lower Division Player of the Tournament as well as runner-up behind Alonso.
TheCup.us Player of the Tournament: Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders)
Alonso, who was named the Player of the Round for last year’s Open Cup Final, was the main offensive reason that the Sounders returned to their fourth straight Final, a Modern Professional Era record fifth straight personally dating back to being a member of the 2008 Charleston Battery.
Alonso scored four goals, which tied for second in the 2012 tournament, and dished out two assists in four games before falling in the Final via a penalty kick tiebreaker where his miss in the shootout was perhaps his only blemish in another fantastic campaign. Alonso had a goal and an assist in their 5-1 Third Round win over the Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL), and also had a pair of goals in their 5-0 rout of Cal FC in the Fourth Round, including one from the penalty spot.
The Cuban defensive midfielder did not play in the team’s 1-0 Quarterfinal win at San Jose, but returned to the lineup in the Semifinals to assist on Eddie Johnson’s opening goal before adding another penalty kick to defeat Chivas USA, 4-1. His performance earned him his second career TheCup.us Player of the Round honor.
TheCup.us Lower Division Player of the Tournament: Danny Barrera (Cal FC)
In the debut of the honor, there was little debate as Barrera’s performance for the USASA entrant Cal FC was impressive. He also finished second to Alonso in the POTT voting, coming close to becoming the first lower division player to earn the honor since Chris Eylander won the award for leading the USL-1 Sounders to the Semifinals in 2008.
Cal FC became the story of the 2012 tournament thanks to the play of Barrera. The Southern California club managed by former US international Eric Wynalda played every one of their games on the road and made a run all the way to the Fourth Round, becoming just the sixth amateur club and second from USASA to reach Round 4 in the Modern Pro Era.
The journey began when Barrera scored two goals in a 3-1 win against last year’s PDL champion the Kitsap Pumas. That performance earned Barrera TheCup.us Player of the Round recognition for the opening round. He would earn the honor again after traveling across the country and handing USL Pro’s Wilmington Hammerheads a stunning 4-0 drubbing. Barrera scored two goals in the game en route to repeating as TheCup.us Player of the Round, something no one else from a lower division team has done dating back to the debut of the honor in 2006.
The only previous repeat honorees were Pat Noonan, who was recognized following the Semifinals and Final of the New England Revolution’s run to the 2007 title, and Nate Jaqua, who was honored for the Seattle Sounders in the 2010 Quarterfinal and Semifinal wins en route to the team’s second championship. Both MLS players also went on to be named TheCup.us Player of the Tournament.
The personal recognition ended there for Barrera, but Cal FC’s headlines did not as they pulled off a shocking upset, knocking out Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers, 1-0, with Barrera leading the way once again. He delivered the game-winning assist to Artur Aghasyan in the 95th minute of extra time in the Rose City before the Cinderella run came to an end in Tukwila, WA as the Seattle Sounders dispatched Cal FC 5-0 in a game that Barrera played the full 90.
Barrera went on to sign with the Atlanta Silverbacks of the second division NASL in July during Wynalda’s interim management of the club, but has played only 181 minutes since, spending some time on trials overseas.
The award is voted on by the staff of TheCup.us and a select panel of members from the North American Soccer Reporters.
Other receiving votes for TheCup.us Player of the Tournament behind Alonso and Barrera were the duo of Jimmy Nielsen and Graham Zusi of tournament champion Sporting Kansas City. The list was rounded out by Seattle’s Zach Scott and Brian Ombiji of the Harrisburg City Islanders.
Though Barrera was the runaway winner of TheCup.us Lower Division Player of the Tournament honors, also receiving votes were Ombiji and Clint Irwin, goalkeeper of the Charlotte Eagles. Lower Division players are eligible to win both awards. The striker is the first to receive the newly-created award.
“We began discussing the idea of adding a Lower Division honor a year ago because we felt there were a number of players from clubs below MLS that had quality tournament performances that were being overlooked because their team did not win the championship,” said TheCup.us senior editor Josh Hakala. “It is natural to look at the tournament finalists when it comes time to vote for the event’s best player, but with those being almost entirely MLS clubs, that leaves outstanding play in the first three or four rounds when teams are playing opposition from higher flights out of the equation.”
Since the second-division Rochester Rhinos won the tournament championship in 1999, only the 2008 Charleston Battery have reached the US Open Cup Final from the lower ranks.
2012 TheCup.us Tournament Honors
Player of the Tournament: Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders)
Lower Division Player of the Tournament: Danny Barrera (Cal FC)
Championship Player of the Round: Matt Besler (Sporting KC)
Semifinals Player of the Round: Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders)
Quarterfinals Player of the Round: Jose Correa (Chivas USA)
Fourth Round Player of the Round: Sainey Touray (Harrisburg City Islanders)
Third Round Player of the Round: Artur Aghasyan (Cal FC)
Second Round Player of the Round: Danny Barrera (Cal FC)
First Round Player of the Round: Danny Barrera (Cal FC)
Past winners of TheCup.us Player of the Tournament
2012: Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders)
2011: Fredy Montero (Seattle Sounders)
2010: Nate Jaqua (Seattle Sounders)
2009: Kasey Keller (Seattle Sounders)
2008: Chris Eylander (Seattle Sounders)
2007: Pat Noonan (New England Revolution)
2006: Andy Herron (Chicago Fire)