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June 2, 2012 at 11:01 AM

Steve Zakuani: “Getting that taste just makes me hungry to get the real thing.”

zakuani mug 2012.jpgThe return of Steve Zakuani to MLS-related action was the story of Friday’s reserve game against Vancouver, and the Sounders FC midfielder spoke with reporters following what was an impressive 45 minutes. Here is the transcript of that group interview:

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(How’d it feel out there?) “It was OK. Forty-five minutes felt like 90 minutes, but it was good. It was good. Obviously they were a more experienced team, had a lot more first-team players and we were young — and it showed. I think we did well. I just enjoyed being out there.”

(How did you feel about your performance?) “I mean I was just happy. Every completed pass felt great. Every time I was able to run and turn I felt good. I was just happy to be out there. I think I should’ve scored, but I will take that. A year ago, I would’ve given you anything to miss a chance. I’ll take that for now. I think today was about getting out there, getting through it, taking the next step forward in my recovery, rather than performance, but I think it was OK. I think I did some stuff that I didn’t think I could do and I still think I have got a long way to go with some other things that need to come back. But I’m at a good place and I felt good.”

(How’d you feel taking your first big hit and being able to get up right away?) “I wasn’t really worried about that. I feel sore now, but I think that was always going to happy. I took it and that’s part of the game. I’ve had some in training and I’ve got one in a game now. I wasn’t worried about that. I’m not really worried about re-doing injury or anything like that, it’s just about building my fitness and building my sharpness and getting my touch back. Today was a good step forward.”

(Was it fitting for you that this was a Friday having measured your progress every week on Fridays?) “We’ve been going weekly by Friday and, yeah, the game fell on a good day. I think I should’ve played the Chivas game last month, pulled myself out of that game — didn’t feel right — and since then I meeting with (coach Sigi Schmid) and (fitness coach Dave Tenney) and we had a program. The last four weeks I’ve made huge, huge, huge steps forward. Hopefully these next four weeks go the same way, because I feel great. I really feel close. I know I’m not 100-percent, obviously, but speed-wise, all that stuff is coming back. It’s still coming back. Today was just a great day. The fans got to see me. I got to see the fans. I got to feel what it feels like to be in front of fans again. It’s a bit emotional, also, because it’s been 13 months. But I feel good and I’m going the right direction.”

(What was going through your mind right at kickoff?) “It’s hard to say. So many things. It’s been a long, long road. I’ve got a lot of people to thank — the guys I did my (physical therapy) with, my doctors, coaches, teammates, whoever. There are so many people. I called some people today around the league who have been a great help to me, spoke to them. It was just a day where I wanted to get out there, get first official game out of the way. I still know I’m not the player I was on April 22 (last year) before the injury. I know that. That’s going to be something I have to live with for a while, but I do know I’m getting back toward being that guy. I did some things today that I didn’t think I could do and was able to go a lot longer than I thought I would. I wish I would’ve scored that one, but, hey, I’ll take what it is today.”

(Looks like you were talking to former Akron teammate Michael Nanchoff over there. What’d he tell you?) “We’re friends. We talk almost weekly. We’re just catching up. He was happy. I spoke to him today earlier. He knew I was going to play, so he’s happy to see his friend back out there. All of those guys. I spoke to Caleb Porter in the week. He said go out there and have fun. I spoke to Teal Bunbury and Darlington (Nagbe), all those guys just said, ‘Go and have fun.’ They miss seeing me out there, I miss being out there and I’ll tell you guys that today was more than the result, more than the performance. It was just about crossing off a really big check (on the checklist). I did it, so I’m happy. I’m going to go home and enjoy it. Tomorrow I’m going to feel sore, but it’s going to be a really, really good feeling because I haven’t felt that sore in a year. I’m going to be happy.”

(Even though you don’t have a timetable, do you think we’ll be having this conversation after an MLS regular-season game this year?) “I think a lot sooner. It’s coming. It’s coming really soon. I’m not going to wait until I feel like 100 percent how I did before until I play. That’s not going to get me anywhere. I feel like as soon as I feel I can get in and contribute, if it’s 10 minutes there, 15 minutes there, I’ll be talking to Sigi and see what I can do. It’s going to be a lot sooner. Maybe the fans have to understand that it’s going to be a while before they see me picking the ball up at the halfway line and dribbling 50 yards with the ball, and if they can understand that, that it’s going to come and take time, I think it’s going to be good. I need more games like this because that’s the only way I’m going to get it back. That’s the only way. Training is good, but I need more games. Getting that taste just makes me hungry to get the real thing.”

(How close were you to getting that goal?) “I should’ve scored it. I should’ve just put a little more on it. It was a long run. Weber kicked it really high and I was chasing. The defender kind of didn’t read it, but I should’ve put it over him. I didn’t put enough and he touched it, but, hey, it happened. I’ll take that. A year ago I was over there jogging with Randy (Noteboom), our trainer, so I’ll take it.”

(On the process of coming back…) “My body’s really told me along the way. For example, the Chivas game, the day we were supposed to leave, I didn’t feel I could go. So I told Sigi and I said, ‘I don’t think I can play,’ and they understood that. So I think a time will come when I’ll tell Sigi I can go, but that depends on him, too. The team is doing well. I’ve got to bide my time I guess to get back in. I’m not just going to swoop back in because I’m not there yet. I think one thing with this kind of injury is, once you get back, you’re not going to be 100 percent. Someone told me the other day, for every day you’re out, it takes you two days to get back. I think that’s a good way to look at it. I can’t wait until 100 percent. I can’t do that. I just need to wait until I can come in and contribute somewhat and those minutes here and there will help me get back to 100 percent.”

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[View the story ” ” on Storify]


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