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January 26, 2011 at 1:49 PM

Steve Zakuani shares thoughts on former Akron teammates

After training Tuesday, midfielder Steve Zakuani shared some thoughts on his many former college teammates from Akron joining MLS. Here’s some of that conversation:

* * *

(What did you think of the Teal Bunbury goal call?) “It was good. (laughs) It was strange, but no it was funny. I obviously was at the game. He’s one of my closest friends and I was there to support him. During the game I didn’t hear it, I was in the stadium, but we all went out to dinner after and had a chat with him at his hotel. We kind of watched it on phone. It was funny. It was definitely funny. But it’s something that’s good for him, a great moment for him. People have sent me videos of that goal and we just laugh about it.”

(Can you talk about the camaraderie you’ve formed with the Akron guys?) “We’re all friends. Just on Saturday night I sat in the stands with Zarek Valentin, with Ben Zemanski, with Blair Gavin. Obviously we’re all there to watch Teal. Nagbe was on the phone with me last night talking about the first day of training. Sarkodie’s down there in Houston. We’re all friends. We’ve played together, some of us one year, some of us two years. You take classes with these guys, you study, you walk around campus together. We just became very good friends. For me it’s amazing what Caleb has done there. We all respect him, he kind of created the whole brand. We’re all in the league now. Obviously we’re not teammates anymore but we’re going to stay friends for a long time. We talk almost every day. I talk to Teal every day. I talk to Darlington every day. Just excited. When you go in front of 40,000 fans to play against your friend, especially Darlington when it’s going to be Seattle versus Portland, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be lots of fun. My other friend Nanchoff is at Vancouver — a very good friend of mine. It’s just going to be interesting. It’s going to be fun. At the same time it’s competition. I don’t want none of them to do better than I do. I don’t want none of their teams to beat Seattle. There’s lot of competition. When we get together for lunch or dinner I want to have the bragging rights. So that’s why we work hard from here so I can make sure that happens.”

(How do you stop Darlington?) “You don’t. You don’t stop Darlington, he’s a very good player. I’m excited for him. I think a lot of MLS fans are going to enjoy him. We knew. When I saw the kid play he was maybe 16 or 17 years old one summer and I said to Caleb, ‘This guy is going make me retire,’ because he’s a very good player. That’s why I left (Akron) early, because we would’ve taken my spot. He’s a very good player. I’m excited to see him and I think he’s going to enjoy Portland. I told him, ‘Be realist with your expectations. It takes you a while to adjust. It took me a while to adjust myself.’ Once he gets into his stride he’s going to do well. But not just Darlington, Kofi’s a very good player, Zarek, Michael Nanchoff, they’re all good. I think it’s going to be good for the league. The league’s growing. The standard of play is getting better and better all the time and it’s a real good testament to Akron.”

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