The American Dream. That is something that most Americans whose families have been in the United States for generations take for granted. In 2007, Osvaldo Alonso defected while playing for the Cuban National Team during the CONCACAF Gold Cup. On Tuesday, he helped lead the Seattle Sounders to a historic third consecutive US Open Cup trophy, setting an American soccer record as an individual player and earning TheCup.us Player of the Round honors.
The award is voted on by the staff of the definitive US Open Cup site TheCup.us and a selected panel of members of the North American Soccer Reporters, which also selects the MLS Player of the Week. Alonso was challenged for the award by teammates Fredy Montero and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.
With the Sounders leading and running out the clock in stoppage time, Alonso put the cap on the match with a fantastic goal six minutes into the additional play, driving through the Fire defense at the edge of the box and creating an open goal for a euphoric conclusion for a record crowd of 35,615 at CenturyLink Field.
It was a perfect finish for a record-setting night for Alonso, who became the first player in the modern professional era of the tournament (1995-present) to play in four consecutive US Open Cup championship games. He has yet to miss the tournament final since his career in US soccer began with the Charleston Battery in 2008.
In fact, in order to get to his first US Open Cup Final, Alonso helped lead the Battery past the USL-1 Sounders in the 2008 Semifinals. It was a quixotic start to the historic run as Seattle’s goal in the 1-1 draw came courtesy of an Alonso own goal in the 20th minute with Charleston’s Randi Patterson equalizing in the 32nd. Alonso would redeem himself by converting his penalty kick in the tiebreaker as the Battery advanced 4-3 to the Final, where they fell in a close contest to DC United, 2-1.
Alonso is one of a dozen players that have played in four US Open Cup championships, a list led by Andy Williams, Tyrone Marshall and Peter Vagenas with five appearances. He tops the list though in consecutive finals played, a ledger where behind him are six players that have played in three straight championships. With their third appearances, his Seattle teammates Kasey Keller, Roger Levesque, Fredy Montero and James Riley joined former Richmond Kickers 1995 champions Brian Kamler and Richie Williams, who both went on to play in the next two finals with DC United.
As a defensive midfielder Alonso often goes unheralded. When his American career began in 2008 his compatriot Maykel Galindo, who defected during the 2005 Gold Cup, was the more talked about Cuban in MLS courtesy of his goal scoring exploits.
The path of the two players, not surprising due to their backgrounds, intertwines and has coincidences. Both were forced to begin their careers in the USL First Division. Despite a trial and developmental contract offer with Galindo’s Chivas USA, Alonso opted for the potential for more playing time with the Battery. The move proved wise as he was named the team MVP as well as the league’s Rookie of the Year. Even better, his performance was seen up close in the Open Cup Semifinal meeting and league campaign by the then USL-1 Seattle Sounders, the club that gave Galindo his professional start for the 2005 and 2006 seasons. That led to a transfer that sent Alonso to the northwest in January of 2009.
At the time, Battery coach Mike Anhseuser wished his player well in the future, perhaps underestimating exactly how well he would do. “This is a fantastic opportunity for Osvaldo to expand his career at the next level. We would have loved to keep him but understand the economics for both parties. We wish him all the best and are hopeful that he will bring success to Seattle Sounders F.C.”
That hope was not only realized, but one could argue that the Cuban international and American soccer record holder Osvaldo Alonso has achieved the American Dream.
2011 TheCup.us Player of the Round winners
Round 1: Zach Lubin – Kitsap Pumas
Round 2: David Bulow – Richmond Kickers
Round 3: Michael Fucito – Seattle Sounders
Quarterfinals: Ronnie Pascale – Richmond Kickers
Semifinals: Dominic Oduro – Chicago Fire
Final: Osvaldo Alonso – Seattle Sounders
Player of the Tournament: TBA