Osvaldo Alonso may be the most irreplaceable player in Seattle Sounders FC history.
But it looks like the club is going to have to do its best to find a replacement for him, at least for the start of the coming Major League Soccer season.
Alonso underwent what is being called successful surgery on his right groin over the weekend. On Monday, he started a walking program while his teammates trained without him at Starfire Sports Complex. However, his rehab isn’t expected to get him back in time for the start of the regular season — March 8 when the New England Revolution visits CenturyLink Field.
“It’s just a matter of his recovery, and that’s almost a wait-and-see,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “On the outside, it could be six to eight weeks, but that’s on the outside. … He could be back out on the training field within two weeks. We really don’t know. But the beginning of the season — the first two games — are something that’s probably in jeopardy.”
Alonso, 29, is one of Seattle’s three designated players, along with forwards Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. He joined the club in the 2009 expansion season, and was named its most valuable player each season from 2010 to 2013. Last year he started a team-high 33 games and was named to his fourth MLS All-Star team.
“He’s a great player and one of the best players on our team, and you want him on the field when possible,” central defender Chad Marshall said. “But it’s good that he’s getting this taken care of now, and it’s not something that’s going to have to be taken care of during the season or late in the season, and you lose him then.”
Naturally, no MLS team has a spare Osvaldo Alonso hanging around in reserve. But the Sounders believe they have options for getting through in the short term.
“Micheal Azira has played there, Andy Rose has played there as well,” Schmid said. “Andy last year had some injuries that opened it up for Micheal, and I thought Micheal did all right in the playoffs. So there’s obviously those two guys. (Rookie Cristian) Roldan’s another possibility. We can always decide to play Zach (Scott) in the back, and move Brad (Evans) back in the midfield. So there’s lots of different things that we can do.”
Meanwhile, opening opponent New England might be without a midfielder and designated player of its own, as Jermaine Jones posted a note on social media that he will undergo surgery to repair a sports hernia on Tuesday.
Jones estimated that he’ll be out “a couple of weeks.” That would scratch him from the Desert Diamond Cup preseason tournament in Tucson, where the Sounders are competing Feb. 18-28. And it could make him questionable for the opener in Seattle.
The Sounders also trained without Dempsey on Monday, as Schmid decided to give him “a few days off” after concluding duty with the United States national team Sunday. “He started a lot earlier than we did with the January camp for the national team,” Schmid said. “So we want to look at all the data of how much work he’s done and phase him back into our training.” Dempsey scored a goal Sunday in the USA’s 2-0 win over Panama. … Longtime midfielder Evans said if things work out, his move to central midfield may be permanent. … Evans also is the Sounders’ player representative, and he said he is no more optimistic about the ongoing collective bargaining negotiations than he was at the start of camp. Evans said the issue is free agency, the league hasn’t budged and the players are willing to strike over it. … Schmid said there will be a role for retired defender Djimi Traore in the organization, but the club isn’t yet ready to announce it.