Another MLS season has started, and it has become no easier for Steve Zakuani to watch the games go on without him.
“No, maybe even worse,” the injured Seattle midfielder said Sunday. “You want to play. These guys are my friends and teammates, and we’ve been here for four years now – four seasons. I’m here to play football. When you go to the games – not just watching the games, but being in the stadium, seeing the fans fill (it) up, March to the Match, the Sound Wave, the national anthem, everything – it instantly triggers back to memories of when you could play. So, no, that’s not going to get easier I don’t think, until I can play.”
Zakuani said he hopes to return to league play by July or August. And coach Sigi Schmid said Zakuani might be ready to appear in reserve league matches by the end of April.
“I didn’t see the reserve schedule yet, but if they want to put me in for a reserve game, I wouldn’t say no,” Zakuani said. “I’m getting toward that stage. I don’t know if I can do a game-game yet, but I’m pretty close.”
Zakuani hasn’t played in a real game since suffering a fractured right tibia and fibula in a match last April. His recovery has been complicated by a nerve issue known as compartment syndrome.
However, he has been training with the Sounders throughout this preseason.
During practice Sunday at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, he lost his defender on a stepover move that looked like the old Zakuani, who in 2009 was an MLS rookie-of-the-year finalist, and in 2010 was the Sounders’ co-leader with 10 goals.
“That’s the sort of thing that builds confidence, when you do those sorts of things,” Zakuani said. “I’m just happy to be back in training. It’s been obviously a really rough rehab recovery. There were times when I was coming out here over the summer and I could barely jog with our trainer; and now I’m playing with the guys. So that’s great progress. But you want more. So I’m still pushing to get back to where I want to be, but I’m getting there slowly.”
The Sounders opened their MLS season Saturday with a 3-1 win over Toronto FC. They return to action Friday when Houston visits CenturyLink Field.
Schmid said forward Eddie Johnson (hip) is likely out for at least two more weeks. The status of midfielder Mauro Rosales (minor swelling in right knee) was unclear as of Sunday. … No roster move has been announced regarding forward O’Brian White (blood clots). However, it is thought the club will terminate his contract while trying to keep the door open if he returns to health.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org The complete Zakuani interview is available at blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer.