The Seattle Sounders have been near the top of MLS all season long and garnering headlines for their play across all competitions. As is usually the case, the strikers and playmakers, Fredy Montero and Mauro Rosales, have gotten the accolades along with the hometown favorite in his final season, Kasey Keller, but none of them is as valuable to the Sounders' success as Osvaldo Alonso.
It's easy to quantify Montero's impact. He has 12 goals and eight assists in league play. Rosales has five goals and 13 assists in MLS. Numbers, proof, bam. Alonso, well he has just three goals and three assists. You can't really quantify the impact that he has made, but those who watch the Sounders know it.
It's rare that you see the Sounders beaten in the center of the pitch and while Brad Evans is a fine player, he's no superstar. Alonso does the bulk of the work in the center and wins the middle for Seattle match-in, match-out. There are plenty of physical, rangey tacklers in MLS though. What separate Alonso from the rest is not just his ability to win the ball, but his ability to turn defending into attacking so quickly. With his quick and smart passing, the Sounders transition as quickly as any team in the league.
When Montero was sidelined and then playing poorly with a cast following wrist surgery, the Sounders still got results. When Rosales was still trying to work his way into the starting lineup early on and then when he was sidelined with a knee injury, the Sounders still got results. No Sounders field player has more than 28 starts, except for Alonso, who has 31.
Alonso is the constant in the Seattle lineup. He's the one who strengthens the defense and begins the attack. He's the one who wins the most important part of the field. Numbers won't show it, but no player on the Sounders makes as many key plays as Alonso. The eyes don't lie. Alonso is the epitome of "the engine that makes his team go" and when you're the engine of one of MLS' top teams, you're also the league MVP.