Amid the craziness of a Seattle Sounders locker room that had clinched a first MLS Western Conference crown last Sunday, the three originals found a corner to meet up.
In some ways, the Sounders’ 1-0 victory at Colorado was still surreal for Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans and Zach Scott, all of whom were on the team when Seattle joined the Major League Soccer ranks in 2009.
One by one, as they sipped champagne from the shiny silver victors’ trophy, they tried recounting all the other trophies — big and small — they had used the same way over the years.
“It was kind of fun,” Scott said. “It couldn’t have happened with a better pair of guys. Brad and Ozzy are Sounders, through and through.”
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Combined, these three veterans played 590 career matches for the Sounders before the franchise reached its first MLS Cup.
“I was thinking about it the other day — it took us 300-something games to get to this point,” Evans said. “It is a long road, no matter how you look at it.”
THE HONEY BADGER
Known for his relentless, physical nature as a defensive midfielder, Alonso is certainly a fan favorite.
As the Sounders started building a roster for their inaugural season, the Cuban native was the 23rd player added in a flurry of January transactions in 2009 — acquired from the Charleston Battery of the United Soccer League.
His 247 MLS matches played for Seattle is a franchise benchmark, just ahead of Evans’ 209.
“He is the heart of the team,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said.
But for all his memories of playing in Seattle, Alonso’s most indelible Sounders moment was coming out of the tunnel for the team’s inaugural season-opening home MLS match against the New York Red Bulls.
“It was a new franchise in the MLS,” Alonso said. “We walked out to play and saw 20,000 people screaming, ‘Seattle Sounders!’ It was amazing. I’ll never forget that moment.”
Despite battling nagging quadriceps injuries early in his career and a severe groin injury last season, Alonso, 31, has been one of the team’s truly reliable figures on the field. A four-time Sounders most valuable player, Alonso has also been selected to the MLS All-Star squad four times.
“Me and (my family) love it here. They’ve spent eight years with me,” said Alonso, who became a U.S. citizen in 2012. “They are still not used to the weather, but they love it here.
“And playing in the finals will be a pinnacle for us. Me, Zach and Brad, we’ve been here from the beginning. ... We’ve waited for this moment for a long time.”
What’s not to like about the 31-year-old Evans?
The Arizona native left UC-Irvine as its career goal-scoring leader with 31 goals. In just his second year in the MLS with the Columbus Crew, he hoisted an MLS Cup trophy.
If you glance at Evans’ photo from the Sounders 2009 media guide, it is virtually unchanged from his current glamour-looks appearance. And because of his thoughtful, well-spoken nature, he is the go-to player for publicity campaigns and media interviews.
But it’s his ability to adapt that has most contributed to his sticking with the Sounders for eight seasons, playing both midfielder and defender in a starting and reserve role.
“I have a good way of pushing things aside when they don’t go my way,” Evans said. “My first year in the league (2007) was (miserable) — I was injured the whole time. And I learned quickly that you have to be strong mentally.”
Evans was the team’s 10th and final pick in the MLS Expansion Draft in November of 2008, and became an immediate starter in the midfield.
“Winning that (Red Bulls) game at home propelled us to a great season,” Evans said of the team’s inaugural campaign. “At if the end of the year, losing to Houston (in the Western Conference semifinals) on a goal from Brian Ching that on another day he doesn’t hit, we maybe find ourselves more on a Cinderella run than right now.
“We accomplished a lot that year. We, as an expansion side, proved a point, and set ourselves up for success the next decade.”
Of the three men, Scott has the longest tenure as a Sounder.
The Hawaii native was an all-West Coast Conference performer at Gonzaga University. He then signed with the Sounders of the USL First Division in 2002, and played in 154 matches for then-coach Brian Schmetzer over the next seven seasons, winning titles in 2005 and 2007.
“I love Brian,” Scott said. “He’s been instrumental in my career. I see the way he takes a lot of young guys under his wing. He wants to see them succeed.”
In March of 2009, Scott and USL Sounders teammate Roger Levesque were signed by the MLS Sounders.
“There was just so much uncertainty going into that year, not only personally, but just how the city was going to embrace the club, and how the club was going to be run,” Scott said.
By 2012, Scott proved to be a versatile piece in the Sounders’ starting defense, moving all around.
Now 36, Scott knew his playing career was reaching its conclusion. In September, he announced he would retire at the end of this season.
“Coming out of the tunnel and seeing the crowd with those scarves up is so seared into my psyche at this point,” Scott said. “To be frank, I am going to be excited to watch games here in the future with my (three) kids from the stands — and from a different perspective, I guess.”