Sounders' Alonso earns U.S. citizenship

OzAlonso (Getty Images)

Osvaldo Alonso is a hard-tackling, long-range shooting, sound-distributing midfielder, one of the best at his craft in MLS. He is also now an American.

The 26-year-old Seattle Sounders midfielder passed his U.S. citizenship test last Thursday, completing a five-year process that dates back to when he defected from Cuba during the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Alonso's story is well-documented. While with the Cuban national team in Houston during that tournament, he bolted from a team trip at a Walmart and found his way to the USL's Charleston Battery before signing with Seattle in 2009.

So what does Alonso's new citizenship status mean for his hopes of potentially playing for the United States men's national team?

It should not mean much. Despite the fact that Alonso and his agent will be petitioning to FIFA for a change of association, his chances would appear to be faint at best. Given that he has played in a Gold Cup, an "A" competition by FIFA standards, for Cuba, he should be prohibited from suiting up for any other nation. Considering that Alonso was also not eligible to play for the United States while he played for Cuba, that works against his favor as well.

What Alonso is holding out hope for is that FIFA recognizes that since he is no longer allowed to play for Cuba and is prohibited by Cuban government from entering the country again, he will be granted the opportunity to switch international allegiances.

"In Ozzie's case, there's an argument there," Alonso's agent, Shaun Higgins, told SBI. "We're going to see where FIFA lies with that decision. 

"He's excited about the potential opportunity. He obviously has to show to the U.S. national team staff that he's that caliber of a player (should a favorable decision be granted)." 

Higgins added that there is no set timetable for the decision and that the petition would formally be submitted in the coming days.

Regardless, gaining his U.S. citizenship is important for Alonso off the field, as he can now be reunited with family members whom he has not seen in five years, including both of his parents and his sister, according to the Sounders' official website.

"On a personal level, it's obviously great for him," Higgins said. "On a soccer level, it's exciting for him to see what the future holds."


What do you think of this development? Are you holding out hope that Alonso will be granted a ruling that allows him to play for the USA? Where do you think he would fall in the U.S. central midfield depth chart?

Share your thoughts below.

  • Camjam

    and yes, due to national team appearances (and suspensions, injuries, etc.) Alonso started 5 more games that Beckerman in 2011.


  • sandtrout

    Now Jermaine Jones has an heir! He can leave all his yellow cards and red cards to Alonso!


  • Camjam

    But tackling is only 1 part of what and good holding player does. ALSO from MLS.com

    Player: Passes Ps/Game Passes final 1/3
    KB 2309 53.7 637
    Alonso 1887 43.88 621

    all this with 1% difference in passing accuracy. This was only through a few weeks ago, but I think is shows the point: Beckerman IS better on the ball. It also states in the article you refernced that Alonso almost never connects on long balls, which Beckerman is great at. Futhermore, another article in the “MLS Soccer Analytics” section makes the point that many times, having to tackle can be brought about by being in a poor position to begin with.

    Point being, it’s silly to say there is no comparison between the two. Both good in different ways, and I hope Alonso takes Beckerman’s “role” in the next WC cycle due to his 4 year age gap.


  • g-dub

    The HB has an instinctual and unique style of aggressive ball winning that was never coached out of him by a structured Youth system. Can it translate beyond MLS? I think so. His ability on the ball has exponentially improved in 3 years in MLS. I’d bet on him succeeding in a big euro league and with the nats if he gets the chance. Klinsman would love this guy.


  • Nate Dollars

    your comment was political, not very clever, and (most importantly) not that funny–so they responded appropriately, i think.

    if you had posted under an unfamiliar name, people would’ve assumed you were just trolling.

    you could’ve just acknowledged that it was a below-average comment, but instead you doubled down with personal insults. (i don’t really get the “shotgun” part, but then it sounds like you’re assuming that the commenters are all of one ethnicity?)


  • Itsjoshadams

    1. Does the USMNT want a player who gave up on his own country?

    2. Holding midfield is our deepest position, he would not get on the field except for All-MLS squads.


  • bcoug

    Whether you look at total tackles or tackles per game, Ozzie blows the field away, that is not in dispute.

    Whether or not Beckerman is better on the ball is a subject of debate – he certainly hasn’t distinguished himself at all on the USMNT (also a debatable topic I suppose.)


  • Micronesian Justin

    1. Please do not look at defecting from Cuba from a soccer standpoint. It had nothing to do with soccer.

    2. See the Beckerman debate above.

    3. Grow up.


  • THomas

    Also what I was thinking. While FIFA rarely uses common sense, their cap-tying system/one time switch policy/etc. seem to work very well and use common sense.

    That said, I would think fleeing your country of birth for political asylum, then gaining citizenship in that new country, all before trying to switch his status would be looked upon favorably.

    Also consider the competition that cap tied him was the one he had to partake in to get into the US safely before defecting.

    Will be interesting to see.


  • The Imperative Voice

    Rubio’s parents left Cuba in 56 which if you know your history makes them not Castro exiles (probably Bautista refugees instead). Rubio nonetheless claimed his family fled Castro. I trust him as far as I could pick him up and throw him.

    Beyond that, we have a confused immigration policy between, say, Mexican and Cuban immigrants. I’m pretty sure Romney and Obama would back Alonso’s citizenship but then if you’re from Central America everything’s different. The issue would not be Alonso it would be Marquez, so to speak. Politics.


  • The Imperative Voice

    Does the embargo still ban travel to Cuba?

    And, while family of citizens are an immigration category, Cuba would have to let them leave. Would they?


  • 2tone

    Is that even a serious comment? Thousands of Cubans have defected in the past 30 years. Maybe you should do some history research as to why Cubans defect from Cuba.

    And yes he would get on the field.


  • Neruda

    Even if Alonso does get an exception from FIFA he’ll have to impress a lot more than fans on SBI. It really only matters if klinsmann likes Alonso. A contact from Europe would cause the coach to take note. It’s no guarantee as we can see with klijestan.


  • The Imperative Voice

    Does he really want to switch? He gave a few reasons for wanting US citizenship but playing for the US is not mentioned, not even as a side benefit. He might very well be holding out for the ability to represent Cuba Libre so to speak while getting his present practical living situation in order by getting American citizenship.

    As long as you surround Alonso with attacking talent and not more DMs — a real concern after Klinsi fielded 4 DMs at Guatemala — pure destruction is valuable in its own right, and I think only Jones would be in his neighborhood on that aptitude.


  • marco

    “It also states in the article you refernced that ‘Alonso almost never connects on long balls’,”

    You would have done well to put this in quotes. It sounds made up. It’s difficult to argue facts/numbers, with opinions and innuendo. It doesn’t change the numbers one bit. The argument that Alonso makes so many tackles because he’s out of position more often is silly.


  • Kevin_Amold

    You are being ridiculous. Save your political sarcasm for the Huffington Post and stop polluting a soccer blog and turning everyone against each other.

    Also, the “conservatives are backward rednecks” stereotype is played out. Very lazy.


  • bryan

    this is correct. what happens on the youth level does not matter in the slightest. i’m not sure why Mike is talking about youth players.

    so long as you are NOT capped by your country in a MEANINGFUL game (e.g. Gold Cup, Copa America, WCQ, etc.) you are allowed to file a one-time switch to FIFA to play for your “other” country. that’s it.

    this is why F. Johnson did not need to be “cap tied”. he was effectively cap tied by using his one-time switch to go from a German player to a USA player.


  • bryan

    Guys, you are all arguing to the death about a guy that is battling for the 4th spot in that position on the A team. take it down a notch.

    obviously this would be great for the USMNT. anytime we get a quality player, i’m all for it. but he doesn’t deserve to start on the USMNT. if he replaces Beckerman, fine. but he would have played 0 minutes in the last WCQs, just like Beckerman.

    he’ll be great for games when we can use a B squad. at 26, he certainly has a chance to work his way up though. maybe move abroad. but lets see if he can even switch before we have that talk.


  • Travis

    Now that he is a citizen, he can petition for his family (parents & sister in this case) to be allowed to immigrate to the US legally.


  • bcoug

    Excellent point – no more speculation or idle chatter on the Internet from now on.


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