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October 26, 2012 at 2:56 PM

A stop and chat with Steve Zakuani

zakuani mug 2012.jpgSounders FC midfielder Steve Zakuani added another highlight to his 2012 season Wednesday as he scored his second goal of the year against CD Marathon of Honduras. The score turned out to be the game winner as Seattle won, 3-1, in the CONCACAF Champions League group game.

Coach Sigi Schmid was asked after Friday’s practice for another evaluation on Zakuani’s progress in the comeback from a devastating leg injury.

“It’s tough because he’s accomplished so much this year — everything that he’s had to come through, that he’s had to work through at the beginning of the season,” Schmid said. “A player always has a better season when the offseason can be a preparation for the season. When you in the offseason are trying to rehab an injury or trying to take care of something, then it takes you a little longer to roll into the season.

“Well, he had to take care of a lot in the offseason, so I don’t disagree what he said and I said at the very beginning — that his best soccer is going to be in 2013. But he has really surprised me in what he’s been able to do. He’s achieving well. He’s got some assists in the games he’s played. He’s got a goal in MLS. He’s got a goal in Champions League. He’s got a couple goals in reserve games now, so he’s making a lot of good progress. He’s doing well enough where he’s going to be a part of our playoff activity, for sure. Then when he has this offseason now to work on getting ready for the season in 2013, I think Steve can get back to where he was.”

When chatted with Zakuani for a bit, as well, Friday and much of the conversation was about a concerning hit to his surgically repaired right leg in the second half of Wednesday’s game. The 24 year old was in noticeable pain and was subbed out not too long after.

Here is the full transcript:

* * *

(Schmid said Wednesday that it might be good in the long run to know you can take a hit to the right leg in a game and get through it. Do you feel that way?) “Yeah, to an extent. I mean it wasn’t the worst hit. It happened a couple of minutes before I went down, and I just felt like a brush on my leg. The guy just hit me in the right spot. I tried to run a bit, but I had a bit of pain. Had it been a game where we were losing or a playoff game, I could have carried on probably, but I just wanted to take a precaution and not risk anything. There was a bit too much pain to play for that night, so I came off. But I feel fine today and there’s no lasting damage.”

(Was it a relief to feel that pain and feel better two days later?) “I came back on and was able to get some touches on the ball and everything, and I could’ve carried on, like I said. But yeah, I woke up the next day and didn’t have any pain. Today I was able to train a bit. I asked if I can jump in training because I didn’t want to just do a regen. I wanted to push myself two days after a game to see if I can do it, and I managed to do it. I wasn’t really concerned. I just felt maybe it was one of the worst hits I’ve taken. It wasn’t even a bad tackle. It was honestly just the slightest touch and it just set something off, but I’m OK.”

(When you went down, did you recognize that it was just pain or did you fear a setback?) “No, it would take a lot. I spoke to our team doctor right after the game and he was like, ‘It will take a lot to do damage there again with the steel rod and the way that the bone healed back.’ No, I don’t have any concerns about that, and I’ve been hit much worse in training and been fine. I just thought it was something where I wanted to keep playing. I wanted to go 90 minutes for my fitness — that was the main disappointment of it.”

(How’d you feel about how you played before that with the goal and a couple other moments? Do you feel you’re regaining your form?) “Yeah, I think I’m fine. I’ve felt good for a long time in training. I think I’ve played maybe four MLS games and I feel OK. I think it’s still maybe after four or five games in two years, it takes a look time to put together maybe a 90-minute performance, but I’m getting there. There are no excuses from my end. From my end, I’m ready to play, I’m ready to be considered, and I felt very good on Wednesday. I was happy with my performance. Goals give confidence, obviously, and if it’s me looking like my old self, then that’s good. But I just feel like I’m ready to play, and I feel as good as I did before.”

(You mentioned on Twitter that the hardware in your leg was affected by the cold. Did you expect that?) “Yeah, because when I did my knee when I was 15 I had some screws in there. And every winter for the first couple of winters it … makes your leg hurt. So coming out here, just warming up, I need to get going more and more. It’s nothing serious, but if you have a steel rod in there and it gets cold, it’s a lot tougher than it is in summer. In summer, I don’t notice it. It’s just a little bit. Nothing too much. If you get hit there, it can be painful.”

(Did you return home to concerned tweets from fans?) “Yeah, I was really surprised. I didn’t know I would get people that scared. I didn’t mean to do that. People were like, ‘Not again.’ I’m like, ‘No…’ I just generally felt a little bit of a hit and came out. I really didn’t mean to do that, so I sent out a tweet just saying, ‘I’m not injured. Don’t be concerned.’ I know I’m fine. I’m totally fine. It would take a lot for me to reinjure it. There’s no concern.”


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