Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso is expected to return to the Sounders FC lineup tonight – and for the first time, as a United States citizen.
Alonso, who defected from Cuba in 2007, completed his five-year path to citizenship last week.
“I’m very happy for that,” he said after training Tuesday. “I’m very proud of myself.”
Alonso already had a green card, and therefore his status on the Sounders’ roster is unchanged. However, he hopes his eligibility for the U.S. national team could change, despite having played with the Cuban national team before his defection.
“(My agent is) going to send a letter to FIFA,” Alonso said. “If I can to play U.S., that’s something I want to do. … He told me I have chance. I’m not allowed to play anymore with Cuba, so I think I have the opportunity to play. If the opportunity comes, I’m very happy with that.”
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said there might be precedent.
“I don’t know all the circumstances, whether FIFA would grant him the opportunity to play for the U.S. now, since I think he played for Cuba a couple of times, so they have to look into it,” he said. “I know it’s happened before. I know Chris Armas played for Puerto Rico before he played for the U.S. and was able to switch.
“… I’m just happy for Ozzie. I think he’s happy about it.”
Schmid was right.
Alonso said he studied hard, he passed his citizenship test, and his next order of business is trying to bring family members into the States from Cuba.
“I’ve waited for a long time,” he said. “Now I’m going to start the process to bring my mother and my sister first. Let’s see what happens in the future.”
Alonso said U.S. citizenship does not necessarily indicate that he will play out the rest of his career in this country. However, he stressed that he is happy playing in Seattle now.
In that capacity, he will slip on a rave green jersey tonight when the slumping Sounders play host to Sporting Kansas City.
Seattle is 0-3-2 over its past five games, and Alonso had to sit out the past two while serving an MLS suspension for a dangerous tackle in a 2-0 loss to Columbus on May 23.
Still, he leads MLS with 71 tackles. He also leads the Sounders with 546 passes completed and an 81.1 passing percentage.
“Ozzie brings a certain tenaciousness onto the field,” Schmid said. “His ability to recover the ball is an important aspect for us. He’s going to help us. He’s going to make us better.”
The Sounders will have to be significantly better than they were Saturday in their 4-1 loss at Montreal.
Kansas City arrives after back-to-back wins that improved its record to 9-3-1, good for second in the Eastern Conference and third in the league.
“For us, it’s an important game just because of our performance in the last game,” Schmid said. “It’s always how you deal with adversity. How you come back is an important indicator for your team.”
SPORTING KANSAS CITY (9-3-1; 28 POINTS) AT SOUNDERS FC (7-4-3; 24)
7 p.m., CenturyLink Field.
TV: Ch. 6/16. RADIO: 97.3-FM, 99.3-FM (Spanish).
CLUB LEADERS: For SKC – G 5, Kei Kamara and C.J. Sapong; A 8, Graham Zusi; S 54, Kamara; SOG 23, Kamara; GAA 0.77, Jimmy Nielsen. For Seattle – G 5, David Estrada; A 4, Fredy Montero; S 66, Montero; SOG 24, Montero; GAA 1.33, Bryan Meredith.
HEAD TO HEAD: Seattle leads, 5-1, and is 2-1 at home. The Sounders swept both meetings last season. This is the only scheduled meeting in 2012.
NOTES: These are the top two teams in MLS over their last 34 games, Seattle going 20-7-7 and SKC 19-6-9. … The Sounders are 0-3-2 over their last five games and coming off of a 4-1 loss at Montreal on Saturday. Kansas City has won two straight. SKC also is 6-1-1 this season against Western Conference opponents. … Seattle coach Sigi Schmid indicated there could be a goalkeeper change tonight for the Sounders. For SKC, Nielsen is tied for first in MLS with six shutouts and his goals-against average is tops among keepers with at least 10 starts. … Seattle defenders Patrick Ianni (back), Leo Gonzales (quad) and Adam Johansson (hamstring) trained this week and could be available. Steve Zakuani (leg) is listed as doubtful, but Schmid did not rule him out as a candidate for the 18-man roster for the first time since his leg injuries early last season. … Sapong (groin) is listed as probable. … Seattle forward Eddie Johnson played for Kansas City from 2006-07, scoring 17 goals in 43 appearances. … Seattle defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado is ineligible after receiving a red card Saturday at Montreal. … Montero and Johnson are one caution away from yellow-card suspension. … The referee is Jair Marrufo.
QUOTABLE: “They’re very aggressive in terms of their overall approach to the game. They’re aggressive defensively. They run all over. They try and high pressure. They’re aggressive offensively. They’re a big team. … They try and throw the ball in the box. Anytime they get a free kick – everything from midfield on in – Graham Zusi serves a good ball (and is) going to knock it into the box.” – Schmid on SKC.
NEXT: 2 p.m. Sunday at Portland Timbers, ESPN.