Alonso returns to Sounders' lineup after earning U.S. citizenship
Osvaldo Alonso returns after a two-game suspension, and five years after defecting from Cuba, he'll play his first game as a United States citizen.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Kansas City @ Seattle, 7 p.m.
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TUKWILA — From a soccer standpoint, Osvaldo Alonso's return from a two-game suspension is exactly what the struggling Sounders need heading into Wednesday's 7 p.m. home game against Sporting Kansas City.
Seattle has never had a worse five-game stretch in a Major League Soccer season and is leaking goals at a calamitous rate.
But a lot more than defensive duties will be on Alonso's mind leading up to kickoff.
The 26-year-old who defected from Cuba will also be thinking about his family, and how earning U.S. citizenship last Thursday means he will soon reunite with his relatives after years apart. The first step in his new life will be bringing his mother and sister to America.
"I've waited for a long time," the midfielder said in his ever-improving English.
It was the summer of 2007 when Alonso made the life-altering decision to defect. He was in Houston with the Cuban national team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and while the team was in a department store, Alonso walked out the door and forged a new path.
The bold move meant he would only be able to keep in contact with his family over the phone — at least until last May, when his grandparents were able to obtain visas as retired seniors and visit for several months.
Five years later, Alonso is an American, joining his wife, Liang, who became a U.S. citizen last year.
"I'm very happy for that and so proud of myself," said Alonso, who described a history test as the hardest part of the process.
Added coach Sigi Schmid: "I'm really happy for Ozzie. It opens up new doors for him and new options."
Alonso, the Sounders' two-time team MVP and a 2011 MLS All-Star, hopes one of those options will be a future with the U.S. men's national team. He played two games for Cuba in the Gold Cup, which could prevent him from switching allegiances, but his agent has sent an inquiry to FIFA, the world's governing soccer body, to determine possible eligibility — even if it is a long shot.
"I'm not allowed to play anymore with Cuba," Alonso said, "so I think I'll have the opportunity to play with the U.S. national team. If the opportunity comes, it's something I want to do."
If not, Alonso said citizenship is reward enough — a thought that will ring home Wednesday during the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner."
"It will be different," he told the team website. "It's my new country. I'm an American and when I hear the national anthem, it's going to be a good day for me."
• Rumors surfaced Tuesday afternoon that the Sounders had waived Christian Sivebaek. The team declined comment, but the Danish midfielder, who hasn't played an MLS game since March, wasn't present at the end of practice Tuesday. Sivebaek posted this on Twitter Tuesday evening: "On the rumors that I'm leaving Seattle, I can say that I'm going to Denmark Thursday to go through the medical examination in a Danish club."
• There could be a change at goalkeeper against Kansas City, Schmid indicated Monday. Bryan Meredith has allowed nine goals in the past four games filling in for injured starter Michael Gspurning. Andrew Weber, a 28-year-old league veteran who hasn't played this season, would be Meredith's replacement in the event of a change. Weber joined the team in March after attending training camp as a trialist.
• Schmid clarified Tuesday that the loan of Andrew Duran to Atlanta of the second-tier North American Soccer League will "last for as long as we think it's productive for us and for them." Schmid said the rookie defender, Seattle's first-round pick in January's MLS SuperDraft, wasn't getting enough games with the Sounders.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @joshuamayers.