Atlanta United ticked off the first big part of their Christmas wish list with the signing of free agent Osvaldo Alonso.
The 36-year-old midfielder has been without a club since leaving Minnesota United at the end of the 2021 campaign and has signed with the Five Stripes on a one-year deal with an option until 2023.
“We are pleased that Ozzie has chosen to sign with us in a free agency,” Atlanta United Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said in a news release. “Ozzie is a proven leader and one of the most respected and decorated players in our league. His veteran presence on the pitch and in the locker room will be a great addition to our club.”
Bocanegra is right. In the last 13 seasons, Alonso has recorded 336 MLS games for the regular season and another 30 in the playoffs. He has never missed an after-season in that time and has won the MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield winning medals, as well as four US Open Cup titles.
It’s not like “Ozzie” has just been on the road to these successes either. The former Cuba international has been named to the MLS All-Star team on four separate occasions, while joining the 2012 MLS Best XI.
This is the kind of experience that Atlanta United has not only lacked in recent years, but that has been actively separated. Their MLS Cup winning side 2018 has been broken up, with veteran leaders like Michael Parkhurst and Jeff Larentowicz retiring, while proven, seasoned winners like Darlington Nagbe and Julian Gressel have been sold.
There is a lot of talent on this playlist, but between Brad Guzan and Josef Martinez at both ends of the field, there is a shortage of leaders. For Atlanta United’s head coach Gonzalo Pineda to bring in a player he both played with and guided as an assistant during his days at the Seattle Sounders, it feels like a smart move, to put his generals in place.
Of course, Alonso will not only be subscribed for intangible things such as leadership and experience. Just last season, the midfielder was first among Minnesota United for recovery per 90 minutes (12.6), and third for blocks per 90 (1.72). He is a formidable defensive presence.
Regular Season MLS Apps: 336 Goals: 13Assist: 11MLS Cups:? Supporters’ Shields:? ️US Open Cup: ???? MLS All-Star Appearances: 4MLS Best XI: 1
Just a short-term signing, but Ozzie Alonso is exactly what #ATLUTD needs
– Chris Smith (@ CJSmith91) December 24, 2021
On the ball, he was even more impressive. Alonso was first among Loons players for completed passes per 90 (56.6), third for ball carriers (50.3) and four for progressive passes (5.22).
Atlanta United has some talented midfielders but none as well rounded as Alonso. Santiago Sosa is a silky passing player, but can often go sideways a little too often and is not the strongest defensively. Matheus Rossetto is confident on the ball but not progressive enough. A fully-fledged Emerson Hyndman has a fantastic engine but is not as technically gifted as those around him. Franco Ibarra is talented, but incredibly raw. The list goes on.
Alonso will be well acquainted with how Pineda likes his team to play and can even help some of the above names both adapt to it and improve their individual games. No matter how much or how little he actually plays, there is real value to offer here.
This will definitely not be the last move that Atlanta United make this offseason. It’s probably not even the most eye-catching. But the capture of Ozzie Alonso may just be the first step towards turning this club back into serious silver challengers.
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