This Week’s Sounders Article: Ozzie Alonso and Brad Evans

Plenty of notable individuals have had connections to the great organization of the Sounders, from current Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp to the obvious US Mens National Team representatives of Kasey Keller, Brian Ching, Herculez Gomez, Marcus Hahnemann, and the more recent additions of Eddie Johnson and this past summer big acquisition, Clint Dempsey. This organization draws not just excellent players but excellent people.

With that, much of the talk this early off-season has been dominated with talk about Eddie Johnson and his near-certain move away from the Rave Green. A stir of noise and uncertainty was generated by the comments of Obafemi Martins, who insinuated in an interview that he maybe looking for a move to Turkey to reunite himself with manager Roberto Mancini. Oh, and there is the bit of business concerning Dempsey and his contractual loan obligation.

There is plenty of news to keep the even the largest stove warm in the depth of the woods in the greater Northwest region. Despite all the news—and it being generally rather negative—it’s surprising that two stories have been swept over by most of the national media outlets.

The Sounders are a club that are possibly becoming the largest and most recognizable brand in American Soccer. With that you see additional articles by Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and of course NBC Sports, that cover the team a bit more in-depth than you’d see of… well, let’s say of Dallas or Columbus. That’s what happens when you have the success, supporter culture, and are the most financially stable club in a league that, less than ten years ago, contracted clubs.

We all know this. We all know that we get that extra amount of attention. Yet with that, the stories of Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans produced this week have been very much passed over in exchange for “bigger” and flashier stories. Make no mistake, these two signing additional deals does just as much to for this organization as going and spending the outrageous amount of money the ownership did just 5 months ago acquiring Clint Dempsey.

Osvaldo Alonso’s story is a remarkable one, having been repeated on the local and national level such that, in this tight-knit community of the supporters, I don’t need explain the heroic tale again. What does need to be stated is that this is a man who could easily find himself on multiple clubs overseas making two or even three times what he just signed for as a designated player.

But, as is the case many times, the decision to stay with the club that brought him to the spotlight of the American Soccer community was one with many extenuating circumstances. We all acknowledge that and love him for his choice and his intense commitment to the organization. His hard work and dedication to not just his performance on the pitch but also the community is an easy example of what it means to him to live in this country.

Beyond the great things he does off the pitch, he’s also one of the best players in all of Major League Soccer. His deal that keeps him with Seattle for an unknown amount of multiple years is very much in the same ilk as Los Angeles Galaxy defender and US star defender Omar Gonzalez. Rewarding a player that isn’t the one who puts many of the goals in the back of the net. In fact, he probably deters more goals from his own goal than he actually creates on that of the opponents.

It’s difficult to exactly articulate in value what he brings to the Seattle Sounders’ midfield in a stark comparison to what another individual—or even the “replacement level” player in the same position—such as Servando Carrasco or even Shalrie Joseph, would accomplish over the same amount of time.

There are no Wins Above Replacement in soccer, and trying to compare one player to another is difficult to near-impossible because of the amount of space shared by 22 players and the randomness of the sport that occurs over 90 minutes. That said we do pay attention to certain events, and some of those events do, in some ways, correlate to the successes and failures of a club.

The best correlative stat available at this time is shots taken, specifically from the efficient zones directly in front of goal. I’d be incredibly interested to see the average amount and value of shots attempted for the Sounders versus the conceded amount of shots against our goal while Alonso is on the field. Unfortunately we don’t have the full details of shots readily at our disposal, just yet…. Those over at American Soccer Analysis are working to change that.

However, what we do have are events that help us understand how someone as dominant as Ozzie Alonso plays the match. The folks over at whoscored.com developed a characteristic sheet that tells you a bit about what a player is good at and then some of the faults in their game.

ozzie

Looking at the list of skills you can determine quickly that he’s pretty much good at everything that doesn’t include scoring goals. That’s isn’t an indictment on his play or quality. Rather it serves as a reminder that there are more things to this game than finishing the shot on goal. In general, finishing ability derives much of its probability from luck as much as skill. A fact lost on many supporters and pundits alike.

Alonso is a great player, and there are plenty of numbers to defend that fact. Back in 2012, Andrew Wiebe wrote about his ability to win tackles, surmising that he is the best in the entire league at defensive midfield. Then just last January Devin Pleuler wrote about the Honey Badger’s keen ability to intercept the opposition and win possession back for the attack. Both excellent analytically-minded and articulated reads.

The legend of Ozzie Alonso and the Rave Green is a story that doesn’t continue in just another notable and keen player narrative. As far as the club is concerned, in the chapter of it’s MLS history Ozzie is the holder for the most minutes played for the Sounders, and transitions to becoming not just a recognizable figure but one of the faces of this organization. It’s also brings him a step closer to becoming a Seattle Sports icon. Another name on the lips that have uttered the names Gary Payton, Ken Griffey Jr., and Shaun Alexander.

Fredy Montero won’t soon be forgotten, but Ozzie is the Mack Strong to Montero’s Galloway-lite departure. A guy that does the little things that help people do the amazing things time and time again. They’re two different players and while people will long for Montero’s goal-scoring ability, remember to appreciate Ozzie’s support of the attack and defense.

I’d love to stick with Seattle Sports metaphors, but unfortunately we hit our end with the analogies when it comes to Brad Evans, our second story of the week. I’m not sure there is another person in the Seattle sports scene who is quite as versatile and as all-encompassing as the Sheriff of the Pitch at Royal Brougham.

It was largely an afterthought, but the announcement of Evans return to the Sounders brought to light the fact that the US Mens National Team starting Right Back was out of contract, not just with the Sounders, but with the league itself. Meaning that a man whose known level of play and leadership was at an all time high could have leveraged the opportunity to a spot with a team in a league with the chance to make more money. Instead he chooses Seattle and your Sounders.

It’s easy for us as Seahawks, and even Mariners fans, to appreciate this because those teams only deal with 20+ some odd teams. Evans could find at least a dozen other leagues, being a starting American option for Jurgen Klinsmanns squad, and he could have gotten paid by more than 50 other teams. That’s a fact that could be missed very, very easily by many an MLB or NFL fan.

Evans over the past two years has played four different positions: both wide positions, of course centrally, and then, rarely, at the right fullback position. On top of that he does well at every position. A great passer, creator and someone who somehow positions himself in situation after situation that lends to helping the Sounders. Analytically it’s difficult to quite illustrate all of Evans game. But, again, thanks to our friends over at whoscored we can break down how The Sheriff functions and his style of play in an average match.

evans

Re-signing Evans is less about signing a “star” and more about signing someone who has and will be more-quietly useful in the future. While Ozzie may play more of a Dan Wilson-esque role, Brad Evans plays something more of a super Luis Sojo role. See, I made a Seattle sports reference work! Actually the 1997 Mariners and the 2013 Sounders probably should probably do lunch sometime and have an awesome chat about under achieving. The parallels between the two clubs are rather interesting.

Getting back to Evans, he’s an original MLS Sounder, and while he’s not someone that is “irreplaceable,” he’s a good player that has qualities that aren’t measurable (yet, anyway). There haven’t been a lot of words written on how much he means to the club and his appointment as the team Captain was significant enough to be mentioned by Adrian Hanauer at his end of the season press conference.

My personal nickname for Evans has rotated through a reference list of enlisted military positions. From Master Chief to Sergeant Major, and then First Sergeant. It’s apparent that while out there he understands the game plan Sigi Schmid has created and helps the XI on the pitch carry on that vision.

Evans isn’t a field general on par with Peyton Manning or even Michael Bradley; he’s unique to the Sigi Schmid system. But, because he’s got such a wide and thorough understanding of the game, he’s able to take his skill set to another level. It’s why he keeps finding himself in keen positions. That’s not an accident, and while this may not be a very scientific approach or method for determining value, I still believe it accurate.

Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans are huge pieces for this Seattle midfield. Retaining them prevents unneeded roster churn. In a off-season that is sure to be riddled with rumors and uncertainty with next years starting XI, it’s great to know that these two guys will remain in Seattle… now if we could somehow smuggle a suitable defender into Seatac. Anyone got any ideas?