Osvaldo Alonso is a hard-tackling, long-range shooting, sound-distributing midfielder, one of the best at his craft in MLS. He is also now an American.
The 26-year-old Seattle Sounders midfielder passed his U.S. citizenship test last Thursday, completing a five-year process that dates back to when he defected from Cuba during the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Alonso's story is well-documented. While with the Cuban national team in Houston during that tournament, he bolted from a team trip at a Walmart and found his way to the USL's Charleston Battery before signing with Seattle in 2009.
So what does Alonso's new citizenship status mean for his hopes of potentially playing for the United States men's national team?
It should not mean much. Despite the fact that Alonso and his agent will be petitioning to FIFA for a change of association, his chances would appear to be faint at best. Given that he has played in a Gold Cup, an "A" competition by FIFA standards, for Cuba, he should be prohibited from suiting up for any other nation. Considering that Alonso was also not eligible to play for the United States while he played for Cuba, that works against his favor as well.
What Alonso is holding out hope for is that FIFA recognizes that since he is no longer allowed to play for Cuba and is prohibited by Cuban government from entering the country again, he will be granted the opportunity to switch international allegiances.
"In Ozzie's case, there's an argument there," Alonso's agent, Shaun Higgins, told SBI. "We're going to see where FIFA lies with that decision.
"He's excited about the potential opportunity. He obviously has to show to the U.S. national team staff that he's that caliber of a player (should a favorable decision be granted)."
Higgins added that there is no set timetable for the decision and that the petition would formally be submitted in the coming days.
Regardless, gaining his U.S. citizenship is important for Alonso off the field, as he can now be reunited with family members whom he has not seen in five years, including both of his parents and his sister, according to the Sounders' official website.
"On a personal level, it's obviously great for him," Higgins said. "On a soccer level, it's exciting for him to see what the future holds."
What do you think of this development? Are you holding out hope that Alonso will be granted a ruling that allows him to play for the USA? Where do you think he would fall in the U.S. central midfield depth chart?
Share your thoughts below.