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April 1, 2012 at 3:25 PM

Steve Zakuani: “I’ve been waiting for this day for a very long time.”

zakuani mug 2012.jpgThe Sounders FC reserves beat Gonzaga, 4-0, in a training game Sunday at Starfire. Seattle’s goals were scored by Alex Caskey, Eddie Johnson, Cordell Cato and Daniel Steres (a non-roster player).

I’ll have more updates from the game later, but the big news of the day was midfielder Steve Zakuani starting and playing 45 minutes against opposition for the first time since his devastating injury almost a year ago.

Reporters caught up with Zakuani after he was subbed out and here’s the transcript of that conversation:

* * *

(How’d you feel about starting a playing 45 minutes today? It’s looks like another great step for you…) “It is. I knew since Thursday that I’d be playing. Sigi asked if I wanted to play 20 minutes. I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it. I’ll just do what I can at a high level, do the best I can.’ He said, ‘Go home and think about it.’ I did and then I thought, ‘Why not?’ It’s not like an official reserve game; it’s against a college team – with all due respect — so I thought it would be good. So I planned to go 20 minutes, but I think my first 10 was a bit apprehensive because that was the first time in a year I had been playing. From Minute 10 to Minute 30 or 35, I feel I was good. And then the last 10 I got tired. So it was a good step forward. Now I’m going to kind of see how I can build on this.”

(So did they ask you to come off after 20 minutes?) “No. That was the agreement, but they kind of forgot. They didn’t say anything, so I just kept playing. I think, like I said, the first 10 I was just getting back into it because that was my first time in an actual game against opposition since Colorado a year ago. I kept going. I asked them at one point how long has it gone? They said 18 minutes, and I felt pretty good, so I knew then I could probably go the whole half. I ended up having 20-25 really good minutes and then, like I said, I got tired toward the end. That’s normal at this stage. What I’ll do now is I’ll go look at the performance and I’ll see what’s still missing — if it’s a little bit more speed or turning direction. We’ll just figure out what’s left.”

(What was that first tackle like?) “It was OK, because I’ve been getting that in training anyway. I’m not really worried about that because I’ve had tackles come in in training. I haven’t had a really strong one, so I don’t know how that will be, but that feels fine. The things I was more concerned with was just making sure how my touches were, my positional awareness and things that I haven’t been able to do for a very long time. I still know how to play. I still have the same brain I had before. It’s just a matter of letting my body catch up to where my mind is. I think it’s starting to do that. I think it was probably the perfect game to try to come and play. We had some good players on the pitch as well, with a lot of professional experience, so it was easier for me in that sense.”

(What’s next for you?) “Go home and sleep. (laughs) … We used all those monitors and (fitness coach) Dave Tenney is going to go look at that. He’ll talk to Sigi and they’ll talk to me, kind of see my pattern of running, how good my recovery was, how high of sprinting level I reached and that kind of stuff. We’ll look at that and we’ll kind of build a program towards it. I think I’m really now pushing toward those final stages. I’ve played in MLS for two years and a bit of actual games; I’m under no illusions at the level that it (takes) to be able to get back there. This is good, but still I’m going to keep it in perspective and realistic that I still have a long way to go in terms of being ready to play an actual game. But it’s a good step forward. April 22nd was the injury, so it really is almost exactly one year. So it’s definitely a good step forward. I’ve been waiting for this day for a very long time, and I’m just happy. We’ll see what’s left. I’m sure they’ll have their things they want me to work on, but for me, from my personal point of view, I’m really happy.”

(What happened to your lip? Ed note: It was bleeding a little bit.) “A guy hit me (laughs).”

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