Sounders' Zakuani entering final push in rehab
As the Sounders prepare to scatter for the offseason, Steve Zakuani's 2012 season has already started. He'll continue to work out in Seattle full time leading into the start of training camp in January.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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TUKWILA — Steve Zakuani's recovery was always going to be more difficult than he let on.
When the Sounders FC midfielder suffered a double fracture of his right leg during an April 22 game in Colorado, the injury contracted compartment syndrome — a serious, sometimes life-threatening condition in which pressure increases in the muscle compartment to the point of restricting blood flow.
Zakuani kept that information from the public until a group interview Monday.
"I lost a lot of nerves, so that's been the main problem I had," said the 23-year-old, who lost feeling in his right foot. "The leg has been fine for a while."
As the Sounders prepare to scatter for the offseason, Zakuani's 2012 season has already started. He'll continue to work out in Seattle full time leading into the start of training camp in January.
So is the expectation to be ready to play in games at the start of the season in March?
"Expectation? I don't know. But the goal? Yeah. That's my aim," Zakuani said. "I'm not aiming to be ready to go by January. That's unrealistic. But by March? Yeah. I'd like to be able to play in the games.
"I've got an extra four months to get ready. I think it's more than possible, and I think I will be. It's just about putting the work in now."
Zakuani has been measuring his progress on Fridays, the same day of the week he suffered the injury. Last week, he said, his training was the best it's been during the recovery.
These days he's jogging, shooting, passing, sprinting — but not quite at full speed. The only thing he isn't doing is taking contact.
"I'm pleased where he's at right now," coach Sigi Schmid said two weeks ago. "I think he's pleased where he's at right now. When you have an injury like that, sometimes the tunnel's so long that you don't really see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think he's now at that point ... that he sees the light. He knows the end of the tunnel is in sight, and that's very encouraging and it's very motivating."
Signs weren't as encouraging months ago. Zakuani admitted to the team website that when he was in the hospital after the injury he was forced to consider the possibility he would never play again.
And the final steps, he knows, will still be tough.
"Coming back is one thing," Zakuani said, "but regaining your level is another. Then improving beyond that is another."
Speed and explosiveness, among his most dangerous traits, will be the last to return, Zakuani said.
The No. 1 pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft admitted there might be "a little bit of a mental issue" to conquer, too, when it comes to taking hits. That confidence will be built in the next four months, though the recovering star doesn't expect that to change how he plays.
• Sounders FC will face Mexico's Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. Seattle hosts the first leg of a two-game series March 6, 7 or 8 and plays on the road March 13, 14 or 15.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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