Sounders FC’s Steve Zakuani was on the bench in Saturday’s 1-1 road tie against the Los Angeles Galaxy. He didn’t play, but it was the first time since April 20 that the midfielder has been available.
Zakuani has been dealing with a groin injury that required midseason surgery.
Here is a transcript of an interview he gave after Tuesday’s practice:
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(On how it felt to be available for the first time in five months…) “I’ve been training pretty good for a while, so I kind of expected to be making my way toward the game-day squad. Obviously it has been a while — I haven’t played since April — so that was a good part of it. Now the next step is obviously to start getting my match fitness on the pitch. So it was good.”
(On how his body feels, following Schmid’s comments that he’s only ready for a limited role at the moment…) “It’s hard to come back after a few months and play 90 minutes right away, obviously. That’s why when you start a season you do preseason and all that — you start building your fitness. So, yeah, I’m not 90-minutes fit right now, but the whole way to get 90-minutes fit is to play matches. Training is good for what it is, but you have to start playing matches to get that match fitness, game fitness, the sharpness and awareness and finding your form on the pitch. It’s just picking up minutes here and there, and then getting my fitness up. That’s the only way I can do it.”
(On what he hopes his role will be down the stretch…) “I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. From Day 1, when I came to Seattle, I just play what the coaches ask me to play, whatever the team needs at that time. If I have to be just on the 18 and not play, then that’s what it’s going to be, like it was on the weekend. If it’s coming on at the end of the game, that’s fine. If it’s starting a game, that’s fine too. Obviously the season has slipped by, most of it, but it is the key part of the year now, and it’s a good time to get healthy. I don’t know. That’s down to Sigi and the coaches in the role they envision for me. I can only be doing what I do. I can only train how I train and leave the rest up to them. I can’t really control the role I play.”
(On how hungry he is to play after a lot of watching…) “For two years, it’s been crazy. I’m always happy. Training is fine — that’s enough for me — because I know myself pretty well. I know when I’m close to my level, and I’ve trained pretty well for the last two weeks. I’ve been very happy with myself in training, and I’m coming in every day and I’m enjoying it. I’m buzzing again and I feel happy again, so that’s been good. And obviously the whole point of training is to eventually get on the pitch. But like I said, I can’t control that, so I watch what happens, and to be fair, the team’s been on a great run. I’m happy with what we’ve done. As much as it’s frustrating to watch, it’s worse if the team is struggling and not winning. But they’ve done well, we’ve been winning, and so that’s made it easier. But yeah, I’ve been happy with how I’m training, I’m happy again with football, and I’ll take it from there.”
(On if he feels he can get something out of the season and not make it a lost year…) “I can never look at it as a lost year. What I can look at it is sometimes in life you get detours you don’t plan for. I didn’t plan to come in injured. I came in training camp pretty sharp, played the first few games of the year — I felt good — and then I suffered a muscle injury, and I didn’t plan for that. It would never be a lost year either way, but I do think just in time, I’ve got my health back. And I’m not, obviously, 100-percent yet. I still have some pain and minor things, but not enough to stop me from playing. Whether it’s five, six games left and then playoffs and all of that, there’s still enough time to come in and play. Last year was the same story: I came back at the very end, and I played in the last game against L.A. I think it was, and that gave me a big boost going into the offseason. It probably will be a similar story to that, I think.”
(On if any of that pain involves the leg…) “My leg? No. My leg is fine. It’s just my groin and hernia, and that’s going to take a while. Zach Scott did the same — well, not as bad as mine — but he did an injury like that and had the same surgeon, and he said it took him a very long time to be completely over that pain. So I’m kind of in that boat. It’s just something you’ve got to manage. I come in and I do a bunch of exercises and jumping, ice bath, anything that needs to be done I’ve been doing.”
(On how dangerous this Sounders roster has become…) “It’s the best and deepest squad we’ve had in my time here — I can say that — I think just on paper. But the paper doesn’t play the games; you have to go out and do it, and we have been doing that lately. You can just read off the names on our team, and I think almost every team would like to have a lot of our players. We have that and it’s going to be finding the balance of getting us all on the pitch and also the balance of when you’re out there actually performing up to your potential. I think if we do that, we can have a very good, fun time in the postseason and the playoffs because, yeah, it is a very, very deep squad. I’ve seen in training, even in the level has gone up, the intensity. Everyone has to bring their A-game everyday, and that’s definitely going to be good for the team.”
(On if he has any recollections of the inaugural game against the Red Bulls in 2009…) “Ah, it was just the best night ever. If you want to launch a franchise, you won’t ask for anything more than a 3-0 home win, keep a clean sheet, you have a sellout — it was just a perfect night. It was the first time for all of us experiencing what we experience every week now, almost. That was a phenomenal night. I can never forget that.”
(On his commercials everywhere…) “I think they’re playing it a little bit too much. (laughs) … I’ve only seen it twice, but it’s too much, I think. It was a good commercial, but they need to kind of pull that now.”