Sounders FC will visit the Colorado Rapids on July 28, and Steve Zakuani and Brian Mullan hope that by then their intersected careers will be only a small subplot.
That game will be played at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo., the same pitch where on April 22, 2011, Mullan’s reckless tackle fractured two bones in Zakuani’s right leg.
Mullan received a 10-game suspension, while Zakuani went on to almost 15 months of rehabilitation before returning to MLS play Saturday – against Mullan and the Rapids.
Zakuani said he hopes both players will find closure through a series of events that played out Saturday: his appearance in the 86th minute; Mullan joining the CenturyLink Field crowd in applause as Zakuani jogged onto the pitch; the two hugging after the final whistle and exchanging jerseys.
“I went up to a bunch of their players, and I went up to him as well,” Zakuani said. “I think that it is good. I have said from day one that I do not have any issues with him. I forgave him a long time ago, but I think it is good for the public to see, for closure. Now I think that he can go on with his career and I can start to do the same. I have a lot of work to do to play consistently well. He took my shirt home, and I am taking his shirt home and I think that chapter is closed now.”
Mullan told ColoradoRapids.com, “It was a great moment for him. I didn’t want to take anything away from it. I just told him, ‘Welcome back.’”
Zakuani is back on the pitch, but he admits he isn’t yet back to the player he was in 2009 when he was selected first overall in the MLS SuperDraft or in 2010 when he was Seattle’s goals co-leader with 10.
Next, Seattle faces three different kinds of matches over the next 10 days: a U.S. Open Cup semifinal against Chivas USA on Wednesday at Starfire Sports Stadium, an MLS match at New York on Sunday, and a friendly against Chelsea on July 18 at CenturyLink Field.
“Everything is just one week at a time,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “He (Zakuani) continues to work. We’ll see what the situation is Wednesday, whether that’s a game that we think fits him.”
Zakuani’s teammates said that for one night, at least, it was nice to see his hard work rewarded.
“I’ve been playing 11 years of soccer and that’s the loudest I’ve ever heard a stadium,” forward Eddie Johnson said.
MLS FIRST XI
No Sounders were voted onto the MLS All-Star First XI announced Sunday.
Fan voting determined this First XI: GK Jimmy Nielsen (Sporting Kansas City); D Steven Beitashour (San Jose); D Jay DeMerit (Vancouver); D Aurelien Collin (Sporting Kansas City); D Heath Pearce (New York); M Dwayne De Rosario (D.C. United); M Landon Donovan (Los Angeles); M Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City); M David Beckham (Los Angeles); F Thierry Henry (New York); F Chris Wondolowski (San Jose).
The First XI will not necessarily form the starting lineup when the MLS Stars face Chelsea on July 25 at Chester, Penn.
The full game-day roster will be announced Sunday on ESPN at halftime of the Sounders-Red Bulls firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8808 blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt