Osvaldo Alonso played through incredible pain to finally win MLS Cup for the Sounders

Osvaldo Alonso is one of three Seattle Sounders who were with the team in their expansion season and were still around to lift the MLS Cup on Saturday. And while it would be foolish to dismiss the impact that Brad Evans and Zach Scott had on the club — not to mention Brian Schmetzer — none of them have had the impact on the Sounders that Alonso did.

Alonso is a Cuban defector who spent a year in the USL before joining the Sounders for their expansion season in 2009. He wasn’t a big name signing. Most people had no idea who he was and if he started, it figured to be a result of an expansion team’s weak roster.

Instead, the Sounders didn’t have a weak roster. They were a downright good team from the start and Alonso was a big part of it. He hadn’t even played half of a season in MLS and he was already one of the best defensive midfielders in the league.

Alonso was a three-time All-Star in the Sounders’ first seven seasons, despite being one of the league’s more underrated players. He was at the heart of everything Seattle did, defensively and going forward. He helped set the culture at the club too.

Fredy Montero and Freddie Ljunberg left, Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins wasn’t around yet and there was turnover on most of the roster, as is normally the case. But the Sounder stayed one of the best teams in the league year after year, and Alonso was the linchpin. He, and the Sounders, didn’t have an MLS Cup, though.

When the Sounders finally made it to the MLS Cup final this year, Alonso was immediately listed as questionable. His absence would have been a big blow to Seattle, who leaned on him especially this season as he put together one of his better seasons. But despite a knee injury that he suffered in the Western Conference final, Seattle always insisted that Alonso would play.

So when the Sounders walked out on the pitch for MLS Cup, there was Alonso. Little did we know just how much Alonso had to go through to be out there.

"He had to get an injection, had to get another injection at halftime just to keep himself in the game," manager Brian Schmetzer said afterward. "He’s tough as nails."

Alonso didn’t just play. He had to go up against Sebastian Giovinco and keep the best player in the league from beating them with the ultimate prize on the line. He did it.

Giovinco was absent for much of the match, obviously frustrated and had to venture further and further from goal to get the ball. The match may have been ugly and not exactly a thriller for fans, but Alonso was happy with it. After all, it was his work that made it so.

It was a clinic from Alonso, who was doing what he’s done in rave green since 2009. And he did it all with a horrible injury.

“His determination on half a leg … is just a testament to how much Ozzie wants to win," Schmetzer went on. "And I can’t be any more proud of happy that he’s in our club.”

Alonso was an MLS Sounder original. He was an afterthought who had never proven himself at anything that resembled a high level. And he became one of their best players. He became a constant at the club and the man who made everything else around him work.

Like the Sounders, all Alonso was missing was an MLS Cup. That’s why he was out there on Saturday night in the freezing cold, with a bad knee, and took every injection they threw at him. He wasn’t going to miss that match. He wasn’t going to be anything other than his best self.

And that’s why when the Sounders lifted MLS Cup and passed it around, Alonso was fighting back tears. It’s why he ran to the Sounders fans after they won and it’s why you couldn’t wipe the smile off his face in the locker room afterward. Alonso is special, and the Sounders are special to him. Now they’re champions together.