Zakuani: Win against Rapids a perfect night for Sounders
SEATTLE — The script couldn’t have been written much better.
Needing a win in the worst way, the Seattle Sounders got just that by beating the Colorado Rapids 2-1 on Saturday night, ending a franchise-record nine-game winless streak behind a pair of Mauro Rosales assists and nearly brought down the house when Steve Zakuani checked into the game for his first action since breaking his leg on April 22, 2011.
“It’s nice to get three points,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I guess the rumors of our demise were maybe a little bit premature, but I thought for at times today we played some good soccer.”
Schmid admitted that bringing Zakuani into the game in the 86th minute might not have been the best tactical decisions, but seemed to think there were more important issues at play.
“Hopefully it provides an end to it,” Schmid said. “I think people have moved on, but it sort of provides a venue for everybody to see the completion of the cycle.”
Full Highlights: SEA 2, COL 1
That Zakuani's return happened against the last team he appeared against was particularly appropriate, something that was seemingly reflected in the ear-ringing roar that erupted when the fan favorite stepped on the field.
“I’m honestly overwhelmed,” Zakuani said. “I tried to visualize what that moment would be like for over a year. It’s something I can’t describe. Those fans are something else. I think they outdid themselves tonight. It was so loud. It’s a great final check mark I had in my mind.
"It was a perfect night all around for the Sounders organization. I’m glad we got the win, I’m glad I came in and I can move on from here.”
After the match, Zakuani exchanged shirts with Brian Mullan, the player whose tackle broke Zakuani’s leg and kept him out until now.
“I have said from day one that I do not have any issues with him,” Zakuani said. “I forgave him a long time ago, but I think it is good for the public to see, for closure. Now I think that he can go on with his career and I can start to do the same. I have a lot of work to do to play consistently well. He took my shirt home and I am taking his shirt home and I think that chapter is closed now.”
In order to make Zakuani’s return really meaningful, it took the Sounders playing one of their best all-around games of the year.
Leading the way was Rosales, who looked very much like the player who made a case for MLS MVP last year before his season was cut short due to injury.
Rosales set up the Sounders’ first goal with a well-placed corner kick that found the head of Álvaro Fernández in the 52nd minute. It was the winger's first goal of the season and ended a run of nine straight games in which the Sounders failed to score the first goal.
Rosales followed that up with an assist to Eddie Johnson in the 64th minute. It was Johnson’s eighth goal of the year and gave the Sounders what proved to be a necessary insurance goal.
“I think everyone knew the magnitude of the game,” Sounders center back Patrick Ianni said. “We stuck to the game plan and everyone worked. I think the big thing is everyone working selflessly for each other. Both offensively and defensively, everyone was moving and being selfless with the ball.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.