Sounders' Steve Zakuani impresses in return to action with reserves
Seattle's 2-1 loss to Vancouver was overshadowed by the midfielder's return to MLS-related action for the time since breaking his leg more than a year ago.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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TUKWILA — Just get through it.
That's what Steve Zakuani told himself going into his first MLS-related action in more than 13 months. And with an impressive 45 minutes in Friday's MLS Reserve League game against Vancouver, the Sounders FC midfielder got through it — and then some.
Explosive and entertaining, Zakuani showed flashes of the star he had become before his leg was broken. And the encouraging performance made the 2-1 loss to the Whitecaps a mere afterthought.
"I did some things today that I didn't think I could do," he said, "and was able to go a lot longer than I thought I would."
And on a possible return to MLS regular-season action, the 24-year-old said: "It's coming. It's coming really soon."
Zakuani last played in an April 1 training game against Gonzaga, a far cry from MLS competition. He was scheduled to play in a reserve game against Chivas USA later that month, but pulled himself out before the team flight to Los Angeles.
This time, he was ready.
"The last four weeks I've made huge, huge, huge steps forward," Zakuani said. "Hopefully these next four weeks go the same way, because I feel great. I really feel close."
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said Zakuani has shown great gains in strength and speed over the past month, but playing in a competitive game presented a much different test.
"This is a measuring stick for him and for us to see, 'OK, how is he going to do against competition, where the gloves are off a little bit?' " Schmid said before the game.
Zakuani, who took some hard hits, showed he was up for it. In the 21st minute, he split two defenders going after a long, bouncing pass and very nearly chipped Whitecaps goalkeeper Brad Knighton. Eight minutes later, Zakuani exploded past defender Carlyle Mitchell, who scored both Vancouver goals, for a right-footed shot that rolled just wide.
Even his teammates became fans for a day.
"It's great to see him getting back into it," said Patrick Ianni. "He's an exciting player for anyone to watch."
In the end, progress was more important than performance for Zakuani, who said playing in front of fans again was emotional after so long away.
"Tomorrow I'm going to feel sore, but it's going to be a really, really good feeling," he said, "because I haven't felt that sore in a year."
• Game tickets for a July 18 friendly against Chelsea FC go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday. The exhibition is included in season-ticket packages.
• A pair of academy products combined for Seattle's goal Friday. Dom Dismuke scored in the 81st minute on an assist from Aaron Kovar.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @joshuamayers