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March 18, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Steve Zakuani: “I’m really, really close to the top speed I had before the injury.”

zakuani mug.jpgReporters got a chance to catch up with Sounders FC midfielder Steve Zakuani on Sunday as he continues his rehab from the broken leg and related complications. Here’s the transcript of that interview:

* * *

(Coach Sigi Schmid told us the other day that playing a reserve game at the end of next month might be realistic for you. Is your body telling you that’s possible?) “I didn’t know he said that, and I don’t know. I’m just staying as I’ve been and taking it day by day. Obviously, I’ve made a lot of progress. I haven’t seen the reserve schedule yet, but if they want to put me in a reserve game, I wouldn’t say no. I’m getting toward that stage. I don’t know if I can play a “game” game yet, but I’m pretty close.”

(You had a moment today with a step-over move where you looked really good. Are you starting to feel like your old self again?) “Not yet. Not to the level that I was, but I’m slowly getting there. That’s the sort of stuff that builds confidence, when you can do those kinds of things. But I’m just happy to be back in training. Obviously I’ve had a really rough rehab/recovery. (Last summer) I could barely jog or train and now I’m playing with the guys — that’s obviously great progress. That makes me happy, but you want more. I’m still pushing to get back to where I need to be. I’m getting there slowly.”

(We last talked to you about two months about your progress. What feels better since then?) “My leg feels more like a normal leg. Obviously it will probably never be the same again, but I have to learn to adjust and compensate with what I have. Like I said, I think I’ve done the right things in rehab and we’ve managed it well. There’s obviously been some minor challenges, things we didn’t foresee, but I’m getting close. It’s almost a year now — next month it’s a year. I don’t know what the standard length of recovery is for this injury with compartment syndrome and nerve damage — I don’t know — but I’m pretty happy where I’m at. If you would have told me back then on that day that you’d be playing a Major League Soccer game in July or August, I would have said absolutely. So I think I’m on course for that. We’ll see just what happens.”

(You said early in your recovery that it was hard to go to games and hard to watch games. Has that changed?) “No. It’s maybe even worse because like I said, you want to play. These guys are my friends and my teammates, and we’ve been here for four seasons, but I’m here to play football. Not just watching the games, but being in the stadium, seeing the fans, the march to the match, the Sound Wave, the national anthem, everything — it instantly triggers memories back to when you could play. That’s not going to get easy I don’t think until I can play. I support from kind of a distance, and obviously I’m with the guys every day, and we all want the team to do well, but on the individual side of it, I don’t find it easy at all. It’s not for me. I don’t even watch many MLS games anymore because I’m just focusing on trying to get better.”

(When you say you’re leg will never be the same, does that mean you think you won’t ever be the same?) “People forget I had an injury at 15 and I had even worse nerve damage, and my right side was never the same as my left side. But I played three seasons in MLS and was playing just fine, so it will be kind of the same thing. I don’t think anyone who’s had that injury ever gets their leg back to where it was, so that’s what I mean with the leg. But you can always get there. I’m getting close. My speed is almost where it was. We’ve been measuring with the GPS devices they have and I’m really, really close to the top speed I had before the injury. That’s a good sign. Now it’s just a case of putting it all together. I never think about not being the same, because I came back before and managed to become a pro and play at a high level. I’ll tell you, my right side was never the same, so it took a bit more of a beating, but I’m confident it’ll be back and I’ll be fine, eventually.”

(And your thoughts continue to be with Fabrice Muamba…) “Really sad. Really sad. I’m distraught. When I come here I forget, but as soon as I get home I’ll be distraught. I sat down and I saw it live. I played with Fabrice Muamba when we were 13 or 14 at Arsenal. Obviously he’s from my country, so I’ve known him for years. Everyone from that team kind of reconnected because of that; it kind of rallied us all together. I was having a chat with Ryan Smith down at Chivas and he was in tears. He was like, ‘It’s sad.’ And we still don’t know. Last I heard he’s in intensive care, critically ill, so we’re just praying he pulls through. Really, really sad. You couldn’t hold back the tears yesterday because that’s a friend on the ground. He has a young son at home, so it’s just really, really sad.”

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