Veteran defensive midfielder Ozzie Alonso is expected to return to Minnesota United for the 2021 season, sources have told the Pioneer Press.

Alonso, 35, has been the Loons’ captain over the past two seasons, and in 2020, he played 1,021 minutes in 13 regular-season MLS games. But his 12th MLS season included multiple muscle injuries and he missed seven straight games in September and October, then another tweak cost him the final two regular-season games in November before he returned for most of the Loons’ run to the MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference final.

Early this offseason, Minnesota brought in 28-year-old Wil Trapp from Inter Miami on a multi-year contract using Targeted Allocation Money. The U.S. men’s national team veteran plays the same defensive midfielder role as Alonso.

But Loons manager Adrian Heath said in his end-of-season news conference that the addition of Trapp didn’t mean they were moving on from Alonso. They were going to welcome him back, though perhaps not likely in the same every-game starting capacity.

Over the past few weeks, United has been working with Alonso on what his future will entail. In addition to playing, Alonso would fill a club ambassador role for the Cuban to be involved in youth player development, the club’s immersion efforts into Minnesota’s Latino community, and other initiatives. This agreement could extend past his playing days.

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Alonso has played 34 total games for the Loons and been a leader on the club’s only two MLS Cup Playoff berths. He was acquired in January 2019 from the Seattle Sounders, where he was regarded as one of MLS’s best players over the previous decade. His original deal with Minnesota was a two-year contract through the end of the 2020 season and a club option for 2021.

Season, camp pushed back

With Wednesday’s MLS announcement that the start of the 2021 season would be pushed back from April 3 to April 17 due to the protracted collective bargaining agreement negotiations with the MLS Players Association, each club’s preseason camp start dates are expected to be delayed as well. Originally planning to start Feb. 22, teams now are looking to start prep work in early March.