BY Todd Dybas 05:56PM 05/15/2011

Dybas: Sounders’ Alonso receives grand visit

Once he decided to leave his native Cuba, Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso knew it would be years, if ever, before he saw family again. But his grandparents were permitted to join him this week in Seattle.

Osvaldo Alonso received a treat this week when his grandparents arrived from Cuba. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Tucked into Saturday night’s energized soccer crowd at Qwest Field were two special guests.

An older couple sat in suite nine, toward the south end of the stadium. From that perch they watched their grandson run Seattle’s pitch for the first time.

Irene Pardo Almora, 70, and Diosdado Alonso Morales, 72, watched their nieto, Osvaldo Alonso, zip around the field against Portland in a downpour. Their arrival in Seattle was a culmination of months of planning.

Four years passed prior to Alonso seeing their faces after Sounders practice Thursday in Tukwila. Liang Alonso escorted her husband’s grandparents from the airport following a flight from their native Cuba to Miami, then to Seattle. Irene and Diosdado were allowed visas to the United States because they are over 65.

“We hugged each other,” Alonso said through a translator Saturday night. “It was a beautiful moment after so many years. Happiness in the air.”

Four years ago, Alonso’s decision to leave a Houston Wal-Mart without his teammates on the U-23 Cuban national team came with the steep price: The likelihood of never seeing family again. His roots in San Cristobal, about 60 miles southwest of Havana, were left behind.

Despite indications that Raul Castro’s administration may relax tourist visa requirements — the paperwork alone is often too expensive for a the typical Cuban to complete — it remains difficult for Cubans to reach U.S. soil. Once they make it, they are allowed to remain in the U.S., the so-called wet-foot, dry-foot policy.

The couple is on a six-month visa received through the U.S. Embassy. Alonso said it’s up to them how long they want to stay, but that they will definitely return to Cuba. The visit stirred memories of home, where he is no longer allowed after defecting while captain of the Cuban team he abandoned.

“One always misses home when they leave,” Alonso said. “But it was a good opportunity and we’ll see when they go back.”

The flip side of Alonso’s decision to stay in America was that those he left behind had to accept the consequences.

“They were sad,” Alonso said of his grandparents. “It was a tough decision that I had to make.

“They felt bad in the beginning, and missed me a lot. They still miss me, but now they got used to it. The important thing is I’m doing what I like and thinking about my future.”

Despite the dearth of soccer participation in Cuba, Alonso said his grandfather knows a lot about the game — enough to help his father become a youth soccer coach — and provides helpful messages. His grandmother, well, not so much.

Their arrival amid Saturday night’s carnival that rebooted the Seattle-Portland rivalry delivered a quiet message of perspective.

The local storylines were about manic action in the streets, followed by ferocity on the field. For Alonso, it was an evening with grandma and grandpa watching, a chance to talk with them post-game. It’s always different talking to your grandparents.

Post-game, he sat off to the side with them in Qwest Field’s Green Loft. Boisterous drunkards and players with their families reveled in the lounge.

Unlike after other matches, Alonso was not resplendent, socializing in an all-white suit. He conversed in a black suit and red tie, quietly engaged face-to-face with loved ones in a re-connection years in the making.

Follow Todd on Twitter at @Todd_Dybas.


  • Augustus Freeman

    Thanks, Todd.  This is the most info I’ve read on this story

  • Anonymous

    The NCAA (as usual) is cutting off its nose to spite its own face.  Players may collectively have a greater sense of self-worth than ever, which likely means that more and more of them are going to declare for the draft because THEY think they’re ready for the NBA.

    To me, the “X factor” in this is Europe.  I’m frankly surprised that more players have not followed Brandon Jennings’ lead after he ditched Arizona to go straight from high school to Italy, made some good money playing pro ball there for a season and still was a lottery pick in 2009.  For players who consider entering the draft early, playing overseas for pretty good coin (along with a car and apartment) in case they don’t get picked makes leaving school after a year less risky. It sure beats not having ANYWHERE to play.

  • brett burton

    Ridiculously cynical article.  The talent level on this team is ridiculous.  There is far more reason for optimism than pessimism.

  • Ryan

    Ross is capable?  NBA scouts disagree w/ you.  Wroten is raw?  His shooting, maybe – but his skill set is the perfect match for Romar’s system

    They may struggle early, but this team has a lot of pieces to compete at a really high level.  Terrible article…

  • Brian James

    I think the article is a little cynical.  Not insanely so. 

    I agree that the author will be very pleasantly surprised with the play of Ross this year.  Look for his free throws to go way up too.  He will have the ball in his hand a lot more this year.

    Another thing is that i felt Holiday really faded last year.  I think he put too much of his mental focus on his offense.  He needed to be a defensive demon every single game and let the O come during the games.  He was thinking too much about needing to score to be relevant for scouts imo.  Or according to my W.A.G..

    I don’t expect this team to be quite as good as last year.  Having a legitimate low post presence will be missed.  I do think Wroten’s ability to drive and create will make up for a lot of that, but it will be missed.  And yes i know Amanning was inconsistent.  But he did show up more often than not in his Senior year.

    We will see lots of improvements in the young guys.  And don’t forget how good Gaddy was looking before going down.  This team would have gone farther imo with Gaddy getting most of the minutes Venoy got last year.  He was needed vs. North Carolina.

    Lots of additions.  Gaddy, Wroten, Simmons.  Those three guys should all be big time players for this team.  Might sound like an overstatement for Wilcox, but i hear good things and i love his “style”.  Wilcox, Aziz, and Ross should all take big steps forward after one year of Pac play.

  • Brian James

    IF you can go really small, imagine the skill out there with this lineup.  I know there are tons of teams you would probably never want to try this line up against(even against their second unit).  But man it would be fun to see it’s ability to get up and down the court, the 3 pt shooting, and their ability to get to the cup or drive and dish. 

    The amount of minutes Ross can match up against another teams PF might be telling for how many minutes we can go small. A more reasonable small lineup will have someone besides Ross guarding their C. Just sometimes the other teams C really is poor on O and you can stick a little guy on him you know?

    Gaddy   6’3
    Wilcox   6’5
    Wroten  6’5
    Suggs   6’6
    Ross     6’6

  • Neal_9621

    I think you should find a new profession