Minnesota United added former Seattle Sounders defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso to the roster Thursday afternoon.
The club acquired the 33-year-old via waivers after Minnesota traded with Orlando City SC for the top spot in the MLS waiver order. The Loons also received a pair of 2019 SuperDraft fourth-round picks, while sending a 2020 SuperDraft second-round pick to the Lions with the fourth spot in the waiver order.
“We’ve just added a great leader and a warrior to our roster,” Sporting Director Manny Lagos said. “It’ll be nice to have him on the field playing for us rather than against us. He’s going to come in and complement and develop our midfield core. He has high expectations for this club and this season. We believe he will add leadership, steel and grit, and will continue to mold a winning mentality on and off the field.”
The Athletic previously reported Alonso was due to be signed to a two-year deal averaging $650,00 a season. Had Alonso simply been signed as a free agent, Minnesota could not have offered more than $530,000 a season per league rules, but acquiring Alonso via waivers sidestepped that restriction.
In 2018, the Loons became the first MLS team to concede 70-plus goals in consecutive seasons. Alonso — a true No. 6 — can help shore up what has been a historically-bad Minnesota defense. His addition gives Ján Greguš — signed last month as MNUFC’s third Designated Player — license to play as a No. 8, or at the least to join the attack if the pair are used in a pivot.
“We are bringing in one of the best, most competitive and tenacious defensive midfielders in the league,” Loons coach Adrian Heath said. “The first thing we heard when speaking with players, front office staff and coaches about Ozzie was that he is a leader, he won’t accept losing. As we move into Allianz Field we know we need to be better and we are bringing in a player that can help us achieve our goals on the field and someone who can help develop a mentality with our players in the locker room.”
Alonso departs Seattle as the Sounders’ all-time leader in MLS appearances (302) and minutes (25,563) logged over 10 seasons. During his time with Seattle, the Sounders won the 2016 MLS Cup, four U.S. Open Cups and 2014 MLS Supporters’ Shield. Additionally, Alonso was named to the MLS Best XI in 2012.
Minnesota is betting on Alonso remaining productive as he ages into his mid thirties. Last year, the Cuban-American averaged 2.4 successful tackles and an interception per game while completing 91.6 percent of his passes. This from a player who averaged 3.6 successful tackles and 2.1 interceptions per game from 2013 to 2016.
While Alonso no longer covers ground at the rate he did a few years ago, he should still bolster Minnesota’s defense for as long as he stays healthy. Plus, adding his and Greguš’ passing ability to the Loons’ midfield should pay dividends in helping retain possession.
In 2018, a hamstring injury cost Alonso several games, but he started in all of the Sounders’ last 17 contests to close out the season. Ultimately, Seattle elected not to retain the services of their former captain after Minnesota and reportedly FC Cincinnati offered wages Seattle was unwilling to match given Alonso’s age. Over the past four years, Alonso has missed an average of 7.75 games per 34-game regular season, and with little depth currently on MNUFC’s roster — besides deputizing Greguš as an enforcer — a lot of pressure has just been placed on Head Trainer Stacey Hardin’s shoulders.
A U.S. citizen, Alonso has played his entire professional career stateside after defecting from Cuba in 2007 before signing for the Charleston Battery, where he earned All-USL First Division and Rookie of the Year honors in 2008.