By John Boyle
There are moments when sports transcend the wins and losses on the field. We saw one of those Saturday night, as a 2-1Sounders FC victory over Colorado was overshadowed by the return of Steve Zakuani, who was playing in his first game in more than 14 months.
Zakuani’s return from a leg injury that was potentially career-threatening would have been special on any field against any opponent, but the fact that his return came at home, where 39,060 fans could give him a rousing ovation—“That’s the loudest I’ve ever heard a stadium. I’ve been playing 11 years of soccer and that’s the loudest I’ve ever heard a stadium,” Eddie Johnson said—and the fact that it was against the Rapids, and their forward Brian Mullan, the man whose reckless tackle broke Zakuani’s leg last year, made this a night to remember.
After the game was over, Zakuani and Mullan exchanged jerseys and a hug in a moment of class, one that provided a good deal of closure for both players.
“I’ve said from Day 1 that I have no issues with him and I had forgiven him a long time ago, but it was good to have that public moment for closure and now he can go on with his career and I can try to do the same with my career,” Zakuani said. “I have a long road ahead of me still in terms of playing consistently and consistently well, but that’s good; he takes my shirt home, I take his shirt home and that chapter is closed now.”
Zakuani only played a few minutes, and had little impact on the game, but this was nevertheless an important day for him in a recovery that still has a long ways to go. He is the first to admit that he is not back to where he was before the injury, when he was one of Seattle’s best attacking players, and Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said one option could be to send Zakuani out on a loan spell to get him more playing time, but on a memorable night at CenturyLink field, all of those realities took a back seat as a very cool moment took over what on its own merit would have been an entertaining game.
“Normally if I get three touches on the ball I’d be upset, but those were the best three touches of my life,” Zakuani said. “I was just happy to get out there and run. When Sigi called me and the fans saw me going over, the place became like a zoo. It’s amazing, it’s a moment I need to go home and watch on video just to see what really happened. It’s like a blur right now, but it was a feeling a feeling I can’t describe. All that hard work, multiple surgeries, the rehab, all of that came to a head at that moment and it was all worth it for that one moment.”