Sounders snap their winless streak, Steve Zakuani returns
Seattle first ended a franchise-worst winless streak at nine games with a 2-1 home win against the Colorado Rapids.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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On one special night, Sounders FC ended two long waits.
Seattle first snapped a franchise-worst winless streak at nine games with a nail-biting 2-1 home win against the Colorado Rapids. More important, the team also saw the much-anticipated return of midfielder Steve Zakuani, who suffered a broken leg in a road game last April against — perhaps poetically — the Rapids.
The emotional comeback after more than 14 months came in the 86th minute when Zakuani replaced midfielder Mauro Rosales. He received a rousing ovation from the 39,060 at CenturyLink Field and chants of his name echoed throughout the stadium.
After the game, Zakuani described himself as "honestly overwhelmed."
"I tried to visualize what that moment would be like for over a year," he said. "It's something I can't describe. Those fans are something else. I think they outdid themselves again tonight — it was so loud. ... It's a final check-mark in my mind, and I'm also happy the team won, obviously, so it's a perfect night all-around for everyone involved in the Sounders."
Once the final whistle sounded, Zakuani exchanged hugs with a couple of teammates and Rapids players. One of them included Colorado midfielder Brian Mullan, who made the reckless tackle last year that broke Zakuani's leg. The two then exchanged jerseys.
While Zakuani said he had forgiven Mullan a long time ago, he called it a good public moment for closure.
"He takes my shirt home, I take his shirt home and I think that chapter is closed now," he said.
Sounders fans had more to cheer about Saturday with the result.
Seattle (8-5-6) opened the scoring in the 52nd minute when midfielder Alvaro Fernandez rose high to head in a corner kick from Rosales for Fernandez's first goal of the season. The Sounders hadn't scored the first goal in an MLS game since May 9 and improved to 8-0-0 this season when scoring first.
Eddie Johnson doubled Seattle's lead in the 64th minute, heading in team-leading eighth goal of the season off a Rosales cross. The goal came five minutes after Johnson was tripped in the penalty box, but referee Kevin Stott swallowed his whistle on the play, much to the Sounders' ire.
Colorado (7-10-1) pulled a goal back in the 79th minute when Omar Cummings calmly finished a Luis Zapata cross at the far post. The Rapids appeared to have an 85th-minute equalizer when midfielder Jeff Larentowicz's long shot sneaked in, but the offside flag was up. Midfielder Martin Rivero also missed high with an open shot in stoppage time as the final moments nervously ticked away in Seattle's first win in almost two months.
"I guess the rumors of our demise were maybe a little bit premature," said coach Sigi Schmid, whose team improved to 6-1-1 against Colorado, 5-0 at home.
A big night for the team. A bigger night from Zakuani.
"It's a pretty emotional time," Schmid said, "because he's come through a lot and suffered a lot."
• Sounders FC next hosts Chivas USA in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila. Seattle returns to MLS action with a July 15 road game against the New York Red Bulls.
• The Sounders started their 19th different lineup in as many games.
• Zakuani was available on Seattle's bench for only the second time since his injury. He didn't play as a reserve in a June 20 home game against Sporting Kansas City — Schmid said the game was too physical — and hasn't been listed as a substitute in the four games since, including a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal.
• Johnson got a yellow card for taking off his jersey during his goal celebration. He is one more caution away from an automatic one-game suspension.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @joshuamayers.
|Colorado||0 1 — 1|
|Seattle||0 2 — 2|
Colorado — Matt Pickens, Marvell Wynne, Luis Zapata, Hunter Freeman, Drew Moor, Martin Rivero, Jamie Smith (Omar Cummings, 67th), Jeff Larentowicz, Jaime Castrillon (Tony Cascio, 84th), Brian Mullan, Conor Casey (Edu, 67th).
Seattle — Bryan Meredith, Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Marc Burch, Andy Rose, Alvaro Fernandez (Cordell Cato, 81st), Osvaldo Alonso, Mauro Rosales (Steve Zakuani, 85th), Alex Caskey, Eddie Johnson (Fredy Montero, 72nd).