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Originally published Sunday, September 23, 2012 at 6:34 PM

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Not all was perfect for Zakuani in Saturday's loss

Steve Zakuani's first goal in 17 months was a tremendous moment, but he also played a role in both goals allowed in Sounders FC's 2-1 loss Saturday

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Great to see Steve score. A great moment. I thought it was a fun game to watch. Very... MORE
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TUKWILA — The list of milestones in Steve Zakuani's long return from a devastating leg injury is just about complete.

First game. First start. First assist. Check. Check. Check.

First goal?

That accomplishment can be checked off, too, after the Sounders FC midfielder scored in the first half of Saturday's 2-1 home loss to the MLS-leading San Jose Earthquakes. It was the first time Zakuani had scored in 17 months after suffering a double leg fracture and being diagnosed with compartment syndrome, a serious complication that required additional surgeries.

But four straight starts and a return to regular action bears something else: Responsibility.

Along with a tremendous feel-good moment in the goal, Zakuani also deserves a share of the blame in defeat. He had the giveaway that eventually led to San Jose's first goal and then kept star Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski onside for what turned out to the be the game-winner.

Zakuani described his involvement in San Jose's second goal as a mental error.

"I've already told (goalkeeper Michael Gspurning) that the goal is my fault," he said. "I've got big enough shoulders to take it."

And Zakuani won't skirt any criticism going forward.

Against Chivas USA a few weeks ago, coach Sigi Schmid said the midfielder too often drifted into the middle of the field instead of staying out wide. In between moments of brilliance, which include a stellar assist earlier this month in Dallas, Zakuani has sometimes struggled with staying consistently involved.

The talk, even if critical, is all about soccer now — not the injury.

Just how Zakuani would have it.

"That's where I want to be; I want to be at a point where it's just like every other player, where it's just about the football," he said earlier this month. "I'm not looking for excuses or injury reasons why things aren't happening. It's just pure football reasons."

And like any other player, improvement will come with more playing time. Schmid has said Zakuani's best soccer — which is at an All-Star level, as seen before the injury — might not return until next season.

But Saturday's goal was a big step.

Reserves end season 4-5-1

Sounders FC got goals from David Estrada, Mario Martinez and Alex Caskey to beat San Jose, 3-0, Sunday in the MLS Reserve League. Seattle finished the season 4-5-1 after going 8-1-1 last year.

Assistant coach Ezra Hendrickson, who manages the reserves, called it an up-and-down season, but warned about judging the team by wins and losses. Involvement in various competitions like the CONCACAF Champions League and U.S. Open Cup often depleted the reserve-team roster.

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or jmayers@seattletimes.com

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