We know Steve Zakuani mostly as an attack-minded midfielder on the left side. We’ve also seen him as winger in a three-forward formation, again on the left predominantly.
But coach Sigi Schmid played Zakuani is a somewhat new role in Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champions League game against Santos Laguna — a second forward in the middle of the field.
“It was the best option for us in that particular game,” Schmid explained against Thursday’s practice.
Obafemi Martins (knee) and David Estrada (eye) were unavailable as options up front due to injury.
Zakuani, who played forward in college, said the original plan was to play underneath Eddie Johnson, “but as the game went on, I started to push higher and higher just because we wanted to get in behind them more.”
And the assessment?
“I think it was OK,” Zakuani said. “I wish I’d have finished a couple of chances, but I think we created a lot of chances and were dangerous. I was happy to be there. Obviously I’ve played it before, but not in such a big game.”
“I think it can still get better up there,” Schmid added, “but when you look at the chances that we had, I think (Zakuani) was probably involved in 60-70 percent. He had a hand in a couple of runs in behind. Could he have gone in harder with the one play with (Felipe) Baloy at the far post? He’s the guy hitting the shot, gets a step on his guy, and (Oswaldo) Sanchez makes a great save that results in (Lamar) Neagle‘s goal. He got in behind on another run. He was in behind on the right-hand side in the first half. So if he continues to do things like that, it shows that it’s a position he could play, as well.”
Finishing, of course, was one thing that stood out — for all the Sounders, really. But I asked Zakuani, who popped up in a lot of places in the attacking third, how he felt about his own finishing performance.
“I had the one over the top — I did the 1-2 with Mario (Martinez) — and I was waiting for the ball to settle, and it didn’t quite settle,” he said, “so I had to kind of take it early and then the ball went over. That’s pretty much the one I wish I could have back. The other ones, like the one on the goal, you just try to run in and finish it. (Sanchez) just makes a good save. I think there’s not much else you can really do at that position.
“A couple of other times I wish I was sharper, but sometimes when you lack a little bit of confidence in front of goal, you just need one to go in. But the overall play, I think, was pretty good. We played well as a team and we created a lot of chances. I was able to set up my teammates and create some chances for myself. The finishing part I’m never worried about because eventually it comes. Once the first one goes in, believe me, it’s going to be a lot easier and a lot more natural just getting that hump off your back.”
What do you think of Zakuani, the forward? Something you’d like to see again?