The "Honey Badger" Bows Out: Ozzie Alonso's Enduring Legacy in MLS

Ozzie Alonso to sign one-day contract to retire as a Sounder
Ozzie Alonso to sign one-day contract to retire as a Sounder / Seattle Sounders FC

Ozzie Alonso is a former professional soccer player who played 15 seasons in Major League Soccer. He is widely regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS history. He won six major trophies with Seattle Sounders FC, where he spent 10 years and became a club legend. He also played for Minnesota United FC and Atlanta United FC before retiring this year.

Early Life and Career

Ozzie Alonso was born on November 11, 1985 in San Cristóbal, Cuba. He started playing soccer at a young age and joined the youth academy of Pinar del Río, one of the most successful clubs in Cuba. He made his debut for the senior team in 2005 and helped them win the Cuban National Championship in 2006. He also represented Cuba at the U-23 level and earned 17 caps for the senior national team.

In 2007, Alonso defected from Cuba while in the United States for the Concacaf Gold Cup, a regional tournament for national teams. He left his hotel in Houston and sought political asylum, leaving behind his family and friends. He later became a U.S. citizen in 2012.

Alonso joined the Charleston Battery, a second-division team, in 2008 and impressed with his performances. He was named the MVP of the U.S. Open Cup, a knockout tournament open to all levels of soccer in the country, after leading the Battery to the final, where they lost to D.C. United. He impressed the Seattle Sounders FC in the US Open Cup semifinal, where the Battery beat the Rave Green on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw. Sounders was preparing to join MLS as an expansion team in 2009.

Seattle Sounders FC

Alonso signed with the Sounders in January 2009 and quickly established himself as a key player and fan favorite. He played in 27 games in his first MLS season and helped the Sounders win the U.S. Open Cup, becoming the first expansion team to do so. He also earned his first MLS All-Star selection in 2009.

Osvaldo Alonso
New York Red Bulls v Seattle Sounders FC / Otto Greule Jr/GettyImages

Alonso continued to excel with the Sounders, forming a formidable partnership with Brad Evans in the midfield. He was known for his tireless work rate, aggressive tackling, accurate passing and occasional long-range goals. He was a leader on and off the field, wearing the captain's armband on several occasions. He was instrumental in the Sounders' success, as they won three more U.S. Open Cups (2010, 2011 and 2014), the Supporters' Shield (2014) and the MLS Cup (2016). He also made the MLS Best XI in 2012 and was an All-Star four times (2011-2014).

Osvaldo Alonso, Fredy Montero
Seattle Sounders v Colorado Rapids / Doug Pensinger/GettyImages

Alonso played 10 seasons with the Sounders, becoming the club's all-time leader in appearances (339), starts (316) and minutes (27,894) across all competitions. He is widely considered as the best player in the club's history and one of the greatest Sounders of all time. He is affectionately nicknamed "the Honey Badger" by the fans for his passion and dedication. He is also revered by his teammates and coaches, who praised his professionalism, character and quality.

Minnesota United FC and Atlanta United FC

After his contract with the Sounders expired at the end of the 2018 season, Alonso signed with Minnesota United FC as a free agent in January 2019. He was named the team captain and played a vital role in the team's improvement, as they reached the playoffs for the first time in their history. He scored the first-ever goal at Allianz Field, the team's new stadium, on April 13, 2019. He played 72 games for the Loons in three seasons, scoring three goals and adding three assists.

Osvaldo Alonso
Los Angeles FC v Minnesota United FC / Jeremy Olson/ISI Photos/GettyImages

In December 2021, Alonso signed with Atlanta United FC, another free agent move. He joined a team that had won the MLS Cup in 2018 and the U.S. Open Cup and the Campeones Cup (a match between the MLS and Liga MX champions) in 2019. He added experience and depth to the midfield, playing 13 games in two seasons. He also became the first player in MLS history to make the playoffs in each of his 15 seasons in the league.

Osvaldo Alonso
Atlanta United FC v New England Revolution / Andrew Katsampes/ISI Photos/GettyImages

Retirement and Legacy

On January 8, 2024, Alonso announced his retirement from professional soccer via social media. He thanked his family, friends, teammates, coaches, fans and clubs for their support throughout his career. He also expressed his gratitude to the United States for giving him the opportunity to pursue his dreams.

On February, 2024, Alonso will return to Seattle to sign a one-day contract with the Sounders, officially retiring as a member of the club. He will be honored with a special ceremony before the game against Austin FC.

Alonso is widely regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS history, as well as one of the most influential players in the league's history. He is a six-time trophy winner, a five-time All-Star, a Best XI member and a club legend. He is also a role model for many young players, especially those who come from difficult backgrounds and face challenges in their careers. He is admired for his courage, resilience and determination, as well as his skill, passion and professionalism. He is a true soccer icon and a legend of the game.

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